Got a call from the IRS or the USCIS asking for money? Phone scams targeting Indians are on the rise

Law enforcement agencies warn against mushrooming fraud.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Phone scams preying on south Asian immigrants across the US are back on the rise, with a number of such occurrences, commonly known as phishing, popping up over the past month.

The fraudulent phone calls are placed to immigrants who are known to be in the US on visas and are pursuing permanent residency (a.k.a. green cards). These calls are purported to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with the man on the other end of the line telling the victims that they owe money and that if they fail to cooperate, they can be arrested, detained, and even deported back to their home country.

The American Bazaar has uncovered several instances of these scams, and have reported on some of the higher profile ones in the past. These scams are not new, and the possibility that such crimes are not diminishing, but are in fact growing, is something that needs to be taken seriously by the entire desi community.

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These fraudsters often demand at least $300, but some scams can even be in excess of $2,000. One such phone scam was attempted last month in Kansas City, Missouri, and the transcript of the phone voicemail left by the scammers was posted to local forum (transcription provided via Vonage phone service, according to the poster):

“Message is intended for [target’s name], please call the very second you receive this message. I need you [or] your retained attorney off record to return the call. Issue at hand is extremely time sensitive. My name is David from [the] Internal Revenue Service Department and [the] hotline to my division is 425-209-1033. I repeat it’s 425-209-1033. Don’t try to disregard this message and do return the call before any legal allegations take place […] contact us back as soon as possible. Goodbye and take care.”

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Now, US law enforcement agencies are teaming up and reaching out to south Asian cultural and religious communities to help fight back against these scams, which have already claimed untold thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims.

In particular, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP) has teamed up with the Newark Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Bureau of New Jersey, and the Hindu American Seva Communities (HASC) to help raise awareness of this problem among the very large desi community within the state.

It’s important for those fitting the profile of a potential victim to know that some simple guidelines. For instance, the IRS typically does not call individuals when it has a problem with you or your taxes. On top of that, the calls usually come from unidentified and/or untraceable numbers. The poster on KCDesi also pointed out that his caller sounded like he could potentially have been desi as well, although this sounds like an exception rather than the norm.

Anything that sounds even remotely fishy – such as the IRS referring to themselves as “the Internal Revenue Services Department – should be reported to the authorities promptly. The best number to call is that of the Federal Trade Commission, at (877)-382-4357.

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