Washington, D.C.—As Mainers across our state file their taxes, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee, is warning of a recurring IRS imposter phone scam. Through this scam, of which there are multiple variations, con artists demand immediate payment of “back taxes” and threaten retaliation, such as home foreclosure and even arrest, if payment of “back taxes” is not made.
According to the Government Accountability Office, seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion to financial exploitation every year. At a special event at AARP Maine in Portland this week, Senator Collins unveiled a comprehensive anti-fraud resource guide titled, “Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors.” The IRS imposter phone scam was listed as the #1 most prevalent fraud.
The IRS imposter scam calls most often involve a disguised, or “spoofed,” caller ID to make the victim believe that the call is coming from the “202” area code, or Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service are headquartered. In a newer variation of this scam, calls appear to be coming from either the “509,” “360,” and “206” area codes, which are Washington State area codes.
“Putting a stop to these aggressive and ruthless scams targeting our nation’s seniors, including the IRS phone scam, is among my highest priorities as Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee,” said Senator Collins. “We must ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to pursue these criminals and that our seniors and their caregivers have the information to protect themselves against these cruel crimes.”
Last April, Senator Collins chaired a hearing that examined IRS impersonation scams and efforts by law enforcement to put a stop to them and find and prosecute all those involved. Efforts to increase awareness of this scam are having a positive impact: it now takes con artists an average of 400 calls, up from 50 calls, to find a victim.
It is important to note that the IRS will always mail a bill to a taxpayer before trying to call. Seniors who receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS should call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484. Seniors should also report these calls to the Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) and local law enforcement.
TIGTA has called this scam the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS. Recently, TIGTA issued a public service announcement warning the public about these scams. You can view TIGTA’s announcement here.
With such scams reaching epidemic proportions across the country, the IRS has released several tips to help taxpayers identify suspicious calls that may be part of a scam:
- The IRS will mail a bill to the taxpayer before trying to call to demand payment.
- The IRS will never demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving him or her the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.
- The IRS will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
- The IRS will not threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.
- The IRS will never require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Click HERE to view tips from Senator Collins for avoiding the IRS imposter scam and other frauds