Since October 1, 2013, more than 10,000 people in the United States have reported that they have fallen victim to the IRS telephone scam, and more than 1.8 million people have reported that they have received a call from individuals impersonating the IRS or the Department of Justice.
According to Timothy Camus of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, these scams and attempted scams were reported to TIGTA. The classic version of this scam is where the intended victim receives an unsolicited telephone call from a live person or from an automated call dialer.
The caller, using a fake name and sometimes a fictitious IRS employee badge number, claims to be an IRS or Department of Treasury employee. The scammer then claims that the intended victim owes taxes to the IRS and that, if those taxes are not paid immediately, the victim will be arrested or sued, according to Camus.
Since October of 2013, TIGTA has arrested, indicted or prosecuted approximately seventy individuals and five call centers responsible for more than $54 million paid by the victims to IRS impersonators. In one specific case, according to Camus, a senior citizen was so frightened by the scammer that he immediately drove his car to the local Walmart while remaining on the phone. During the drive, he crashed his vehicle and continued on foot to Walmart to obtain the MoneyGram demanded by the impersonator.
Fortunately, efforts by the IRS and others have significantly reduced the effect that scammers have had on their victims. For example, TIGTA has taken down over 1,056 telephone numbers attributed to the scammers. Further, TIGTA has published the scam-related telephone numbers on the Internet so that potential victims can search those numbers to determine if they were part of the scam.
Finally, TIGTA set up an auto-dialer to call back impersonators ordering them to cease and desist their criminal activity while also occupying the impersonator’s time and telephone lines. Over 141,000 auto-dialed calls were made to these scammers. TIGTA also work with Verizon to block almost 2 million telephone calls that had been “spoofed” to appear as though the calls were being made from the IRS. Finally, the IRS has increased its warnings to the public about this scam.
Both Apple and MoneyGram have increased warnings to their customers about potential IRS fraud, warning people to not proceed with the transaction if it bears the hallmarks of a scam. Walmart has also trained its employees regarding these scams and has posted warning placards.
These efforts have caused a 93% reduction in identified victims, from 843 victims in October of 2016 to 61 victims in December of 2016. The money losses have also been reduced, from $4.2 million in October of 2016 to $300,000.00 in December of 2016. These efforts have also reduced the number of phone calls made by the scammers each week.
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