April 26, 2014
IRS Scam Particularly Scary
There are some scary scams out there. There are those that look convincing and promise big rewards or threaten punishment. The FBI scam is bad because it uses malware that can a computer prisoner and hold it for ransom!
However, since last fall, the IRS has warned of a more insidious scam – one that involves scam artists calling your home or office number and demanding instant payment for back taxes.
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
That is far scarier than any email you might get saying you owe back taxes!
For the record the IRS and other government agencies will typically send you a letter – and if it is really important that letter may be registered and a signature required.
What is more alarming is that these calls have “upped the ante” so to speak. This reporter recently received such a call, and my immediate response was “this is a scam. Give me your phone number and I’ll call you back.” When I insisted it was a scam, I was told the last four digits of the SSN.
I personally pressed it and said, “You are the IRS, what is my full SSN?” The response was quick, “we won’t provide that on an unsecure phone line.” Pressed further I was told, “You can hang up, but in 30 minutes police from your town will be at your door.” I was then provided my home address. That is enough to leave even someone who knows this is a scam to get worried.
I wasn’t really worried that the police would show up. No, my worry is that soon the scammers could take this further. What happens when the scammers start to target parts of the country with fake police or investigators?
The truth is many of these scammers operate outside of the US, so it is unlikely they would resort to such a thing. But it is also difficult for law enforcement – especially on the local level – to do much to stop this.
The other thing to remember is that with Google Maps and all the information that is online, scammers can get details that would have been impossible from random calling. Today, the scammers could do a bit of work, just enough to seem legitimate. In seconds they could find the name of the local police chief, the address of the police station, etc.
The question remains whether these scams can be stopped. The sad truth is that the answer is probably no.
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