WASHINGTON – Federal agents are dealing with a major phone scam that’s sweeping the nation – quickly.
“It’s no longer isolated to just a certain group, or any type of individual,” said Tim Camus, Deputy Inspector General for Investigation at Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in Washington, D.C. “It’s anybody and everybody.”
Camus said his agency has been following this scam for a year, and calls it the biggest scam of its kind in the history of TIGTA.
“People are calling out of the blue, they’re calling unsuspecting individuals, claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, telling the victim that they owe tax and demanding that immediate payment be made,” Camus said. “Otherwise, they threaten them with arrest, deportation, losing their drivers license, on and on and on.”
A simple scam that’s already claimed at least 2,000 victims, duping them out of at least 10 million dollars. But, Camus says TIGTA is working with other agencies to learn as much as they can about the criminals behind it.
“It’s a very extensive and complicated investigation and it’s ongoing, so, I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics about what we’re doing,” he said. “But it is a top priority.”
Camus said there are ways to protect yourself. If you get a call that you think is suspicious, the best thing to do is hang up the phone. He said it’s better to be safe than sorry, because even if it is a legitimate IRS agent, that agent will not penalize you for being cautious.
“They won’t take offense if you say, if you say, ‘you know, I understand there’s a scam going on, I’m going to hang up the phone now, I’m going to do some research, and I will get back to you,’” he said.
Camus also said to keep this in mind: the IRS will never threaten you over the phone with arrest or threaten your immigration status or your drivers or business license. And, Camus said, if the caller is asking you to withdraw money and put it on a pre-paid card, you’re likely about to be scammed. He added, when it doubt, always follow your gut.
“I really feel bad for the folks who have been impacted, so I think it’s critically important that everybody pay attention,” he said. “The only way to stop it is when the criminals realize it’s not longer profitable to do it.”
If you believe you’re the victim of a scam call you should report it to both the IRS and TIGTA. First, call the IRS line at 1-800-829-1040, then, visit TIGTA’s website at www.treasury.gov/tigta and report the call.