Got a call from the IRS threatening arrest, jail time? It’s a scam

FTC puts out bulletin warning that South Asians are being targeted most heavily.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: A new phone scam targeting Americans of south Asian descent – the largest of its kind thus far in US history – is using the threat of legal action by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to bilk thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put out a bulletin earlier this week, notifying potential targets about the fraud. According to the bulletin, targets will receive a call, usually from a (202) area code number, saying that the IRS has issued a warrant against them regarding unpaid taxes, and that they must resolve the malfeasance immediately or be arrested and possibly jailed.

The bulletin said: “Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers, may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number, [may] imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling, sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls, [and] victims [may] hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.” These callers often have south Asian accents, as well, and use simple names like “Bob” and “Jim.”

A relative of a staff member of The American Bazaar received such a call last month, from the phone number (202)-241-2979. The caller said his name was Mac Brown, and clearly had an Indian accent, saying that the target had unresolved tax issues with the IRS that needed to be sorted out right away. The caller repeatedly said that they were with the “Internal Revenue Service Department, IRS Department, government department in Washington, D.C.”

The caller never revealed the specifics of what the charges were, despite repeatedly being asked to do so. After the third or fourth time, he got very irritated and began demanding that the target turn over the necessary information and pay the money required to resolve the matter. When told that the “victim” would have to call back in order to give what was necessary, the caller simply said “OK,” left a number, and hung up.

When The American Bazaar employee called the number back, they were met with an answering machine message saying that they had reached the IRS, and to leave their name, number, and a message so that an agent could get back to them as soon as possible.

Anyone who is confronted with such a phone call is urged to immediately contact either the police (911) or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, at1-800-366-4484. The federal government is working diligently to stop this kind of fraudulent behavior, but needs the public’s help in order to be effectual.

“If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above),” says the FTC, “then call and report the incident [immediately].”


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