IRS watchdog warns of ‘largest scam of its kind’ targeting taxpayers

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The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration warned of the “largest” phone scam of taxpayers it has ever seen on Thursday.

According to TIGTA, people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service are calling taxpayers in an attempt to defraud them — telling the would be victims that they owe taxes and immediately must pay via a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, or else face arrest, deportation, or loss of business or driver’s license.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

To date, George said TIGTA has received reports of more than 20,000 contacts and thousands of victims have already paid out over $1 million due to the scam.

“The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming,” George said.  “At all times, and particularly during the tax filing season, we want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals.”

According to the IRS watchdog, if somebody claiming to be from the IRS demands immediate payment with threats “that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

The IRS generally will be in touch with people initially by mail about unpaid taxes, not by phone. Furthermore, the agency will not ask for payment via wire transfer or pre-paid debit, nor will they request a credit card number over the phone.

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Caroline May