A government watchdog says more than 20,000 taxpayers have been targeted by fake IRS agents in the largest phone scam the agency has ever seen.
The IRS inspector general says thousands of victims have lost a total of more than $1 million. As part of the scam, fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and demand payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer.
In order to convince people that they are real IRS agents, the scammers use several tricks including a program to make the IRS's toll-free number appear on the caller ID, call center background noise, and false agent badge numbers, said officials with the Better Business Bureau.
Those who refuse are threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver's license.
J. Russell George is the IRS inspector general. He said Thursday that real IRS agents usually contact people first by mail. He says real agents don't demand payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer. He says people have been targeted in nearly every state.
The BBB recommends consumers to follow a few tips in order to protect themselves from this IRS scam and others like it:
*Beware of any caller claiming to be from the IRS and demanding money. The IRS announced that it would never ask for payments by wire transfer or a prepaid card and it will typically alert taxpayers of unpaid taxes via the mail, not a phone call.
*In general, never give anyone money or credit card information over the phone. -Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to bully their targets into doing what they want. This is a tactic many scammers use.
*Be skeptical of what a caller claims he or she can do if you refuse to meet their demand. An IRS agent will not get the police or an immigration agency involved just because you owe taxes.
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