The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning area consumers about a longtime phone scam that is hitting hard in the Memphis area right now. Crooks are targeting taxpayers throughout the Mid-South by calling and telling them that they owe money to the IRS.
They threaten the intended victims if they don’t agree to pay up. Some victims have reported receiving robocalls and others have been contacted by live callers. The caller may become hostile or insulting.
A Memphis woman received a live call from “Officer Jones,” who said his badge number was #ILN3207. The call came from (425) 312-1790, which is a Bellevue, Wash., number.
Officer Jones told the intended victim that he was an IRS agent and that she had been delinquent for 25 years in paying taxes. When she denied owing any money and told him her CPA filed her taxes every year, he said the IRS didn’t give the CPA permission to file and they were filing a lawsuit against her.
After hanging up on the caller, the woman called the number back and spoke to a man with a foreign accent who threatened to take her home, seize her bank account, and send an agent over to arrest her. She had a second message from the IRS left on her answering machine a few hours later.
Victims are typically told they owe money to the IRS that must be paid immediately through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Victims who refuse to cooperate are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.
Scammers often use fake names — generally common names and surnames — and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves. Some even spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s really the IRS calling.
The crooks may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. Some victims report hearing background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers may hang up, but victims soon receive other calls pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
According to Dan Boone, IRS Media Specialist for Alabama & Tennessee, the scam is still very active across the country.
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that’s a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” Boone said. “The IRS does not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.”
Boone also said the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. People who receive such emails should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message, but should forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who receive such a call should report it:
- To the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484.
- To the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/contact or 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). Add the words “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
- To the BBB at bbb.org/scamtracker/memphis/.
For information about the BBB, visit bbb.org.