3,000 people cheated in the US.
By Raif Karerat
WASHINGTON, DC: Fake IRS agents have targeted more than 366,000 people with aggressive, threatening phone calls demanding payments in the largest ever scam of its kind, federal investigators reported on Thursday.
More than 3,000 individuals have fallen prey to the hoax, in which the scammers intimidate their victims with the notion of serving jail time if their demands are not met. According to Timothy Camus, a Treasury deputy inspector general for tax administration, the con artists have gleaned a total of $15.5 million from their unwitting marks. One victim reportedly lost more than $500,000.
The Associated Press reported the scam is so far-reaching investigators believe multiple cells may be involved, including some overseas.
“These criminal acts are perpetrated by thieves hiding behind telephone lines and computers, preying on honest taxpayers and robbing the Treasury of tens of billions of dollars every year,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Taxpayers must be more aware of the risks and better protected from attack and these criminals must be found and brought to justice.”
Two suspects in Florida have been arrested to date, said Camus. They stand accused of being involved in with Indian call centers that were contacting U.S. taxpayers and impersonating IRS agents.
“Given the sophistication of this criminal activity and the fact that a lot of it comes from overseas, this looks to me like an emerging type of organized crime,” stated Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee.
As part of the widespread racket, fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and demand payment using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Those who refuse are presented with the notion of jail time, deportation, or the loss of a business or driver’s license. The lawbreakers can manipulate caller ID to make it appear as if they are calling from an IRS number, and may even know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
“The criminals do not discriminate. They are calling people everywhere, of all income levels and backgrounds,” Camus declared during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
“Our message is simple,” he continued. “If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you do not pay immediately, it is a scam artist calling. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by telephone. If you do owe money to the IRS, chances are you have already received some form of a notice or correspondence from the IRS in your mailbox.”
Similar scams have also targeted professionals on H1-B visas, especially, with fake agents claiming to be from the Department of Homeland Security demanding money to fix paperwork. The victims are threatened with deportation if they don’t comply with the demands.
The American Bazaar has reported on these scams, and they can be read here: