IRS phone scam targets unsuspecting taxpayers - WSMV Channel 4

IRS phone scam targets unsuspecting taxpayers

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With the April 15 tax deadline approaching, government officials are investigating what is believed to be the largest ever phone fraud scam targeting taxpayers.

Thousands of people have fallen victim and are out thousands of dollars, but not Warren County resident Jane Scribney.

She received one of the phone calls in the IRS phone scam.

"He called himself Mike Johnson, and he said he was from the Internal Revenue Service," Scribney said.

Scribney said the man never got around to asking for money, but he did get her attention.

"He hadn't gotten to that part with me yet. I was concerned that he kept saying 'I'm from the IRS,' and 'you're going to be put in prison,'" Scribney said.

The caller apparently had a thick accent, and that may have been the only thing that saved her from falling prey to the scam.

"I kept saying, 'I can't understand you,'" Scribney said. "I asked him, 'What are you saying?' Finally he gave up and said 'goodbye.'"

She feared the worst since she had just received a letter from the IRS the day before.

"It was nothing to be concerned about at all," Scribney said. "In fact, they had made a mistake and I was to get a refund."

Many other people were not as fortunate. Government officials said more than 20,000 people have been contacted and thousands have fallen victim after sending more than $1 million to the scammers.

"If someone calls you wanting money or personal information, I advise you to tell the caller to send something in writing and you'll respond to that," said Dan Boone, IRS media specialist for Alabama and Tennessee.

Scribney didn't take the scammer at his word, so she went straight to her accountant and a member of her church.

"Quite honestly, it scared me. It makes me very nervous," Scribney said.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is offering the following tips.

The callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here's what to do:

  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don't owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

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