The Internal Revenue Service is warning the public about a phone scam in which criminals are impersonating IRS employees.
Similar to other IRS impersonation schemes, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. In the recent variation, scammers are making unsolicited phone calls to victims claiming to be from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn.
Calls may be robo-calls that request a call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist requests personal information, including a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification numbers.
IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) does not initiate calls to taxpayers out of the blue. Typically, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help first, and only then would TAS reach out to the taxpayer.
In other variations of the phone scam, fraudsters demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often hostile and abusive.
Alternately, scammers may tell would-be victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information. Other characteristics of these scams include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves;
- Scammers may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number;
- Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling;
- Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls;
- Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site;
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.
DEA warns of alarming increase of scam calls
The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to receive reports from practitioners and the general public, alike, indicating that they have received calls from special agent impersonators. The callers typically identify themselves as DEA personnel and instruct their victims to pay a “fine” via wire transfer to avoid arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment.
The reported scam tactics are continually changing, but often share many of the following characteristics:
- Callers use fake names and badge numbers or, alternatively, names of well-known DEA senior officials;
- The tone of calls is urgent and aggressive; callers refuse to speak or leave a message with anyone other than the person for whom they are calling;
- Callers threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, and in the case of medical practitioners, revocation of their DEA numbers;
- Callers demand thousands of dollars via wire transfer or, in some instances, in the form of untraceable gift cards taken over the phone;
- Callers falsify the number on caller ID to appear as a legitimate DEA phone number; or
- Callers will often ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number or date of birth.
When calling a medical practitioner, callers often reference National Provider Identifier numbers and/or state license numbers. They also might claim that patients are making accusations against the practitioner.
It’s important to underscore that DEA personnel will never contact practitioners or members of the public by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment. DEA will not request any personal or sensitive information over the phone. Notification of a legitimate investigation or legal action is made via official letter or in person.