IRS: Scammers using scare tactics to prey on Kentuckians

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Internal Revenue Service warns nobody knows who the scammers are but they could be responsible for the biggest tax scam in history.

"It's the level and scale of this that's of great concern to us," IRS spokesman Luis Garcia told WKYT's Miranda Combs.

Garcia says the scam starts with a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. He says they then demand that the victim pay whatever alleged debt is owed immediately.

If you hang up and ignore the demands, Garcia says the scammers will use a fake number to call you that appears to be your local police department on caller ID.

"That's how sophisticated they are," Garcia said

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called it the largest scam of its kind. As of March 20, TIGTA reported that it has received reports of over 20,000 contacts related to this scam. TIGTA also stated that thousands of victims have paid over $1 million to fraudsters claiming to be from the IRS.

Although he says it's happening everywhere, one population seems to be a main target. "What's really upsetting is these criminals are targeting the elderly," Garcia explained. "These are people who have paid taxes their whole life and think they're doing right again, but they're being scammed."

Thieves who run this scam often:
· Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
· Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
· Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling.
· Send bogus IRS e-mails to support the bogus calls.
· Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles. The caller ID again appears to support their claim.

Garcia says the IRS never requires immediate, full payment and doesn't use local police department as scare tactics.

Here are a few warning signs so you can protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim of these crimes:
· Be wary of any unexpected phone or email communication allegedly from the IRS.
· Don't fall for phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Thieves often pose as the IRS using a bogus refund or warnings to pay past-due taxes.
· The IRS usually first contacts people by mail - not by phone - about unpaid taxes.
· The IRS won't ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won't ask for a credit card number over the phone.
· The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of e-communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
· The IRS doesn't ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential information for credit card, bank or other accounts.

The IRS urges you to be vigilant against the many different types of tax scams. Their common goal is to steal your money, and often to steal your identity.

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