For months, the news and Twitter feeds have been filled with stories about threatening calls from scam artists posing as IRS agents to defraud taxpayers. IRS investigators report cases where taxpayers were intimidated into purchasing pre-loaded debit or gift cards, calling the imposters back, and providing the card number and PIN. Clearly, these scammers are pretty intimidating!
Hopefully, you have read and heard that the IRS does not call taxpayers and threaten them to collect taxes. Requests for payment are generally communicated in a letter that explains the amount and why the IRS believes it is due.
The IRS and other law enforcement agencies investigate taxpayer reports of fraudulent calls. They are catching and prosecuting the scammers who are preying on taxpayer fears. Here’s one they caught recently. This story is a good example of how the scam works.
Sahil Patel, a scammer who organized a scheme in which taxpayers were threatened with calls purporting to come from the IRS and the FBI demanding payment has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. Per the IRS’s Office of Investigations, taxpayers reported about 290,000 scam calls since October 2013. That means there are hundreds of others like Patel at work intimidating taxpayers.
Patel set up telephone call centers located in India and hired English-speaking employees to place telephone calls to U.S. taxpayers. Armed with long lists of potential victims, those India-based callers systematically placed thousands of calls in the hopes of intimidating the call recipients into providing a payment. To extort these victims, the India-based callers impersonated law enforcement officials of the FBI and IRS and threatened their victims with financial penalties and arrest in connection with fabricated financial crimes.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
The scam has been continuing and is on the rise this year despite Patel’s arrest, prosecution, and conviction. If you get a call, hang up! Then, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov and clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner, or call the TIGTA hotline at 1-800-366-4484.