Over the past two years, nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million to scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Since October 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received reports of roughly 736,000 contacts made to taxpayers demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.
J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, assured taxpayers that his office was actively pursuing those involved in the fraud, reassuring taxpayers, “We have made progress in our investigation of this scam, resulting in the successful prosecution of some individuals associated with it over the past year. This summer, a ringleader was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison. However, this is still a matter of high investigative priority, and we will not rest until all individuals associated with this fraud have been brought to justice.”
But even as TIGTA notes that it continues to receive reports of thousands those bogus calls every month, stories are circulating suggesting that the scam is widening. Scammers are changing tactics and making calls purporting to be directly from the U.S. Treasury. There are a few variations on this scam. In one version, scammers advise that an individual has been awarded a grant or a similar sum of money and in order to collect, the individual needs to provide personal information or a sum of money to “release” the funds. It sounds a little bit like those lottery scams making the rounds but the use of the name of the Office of the Treasury seems to make individuals believe that it’s more legitimate. It is not. The Treasury advises that it does not have such a program. Further, the Treasury says:
Recently we’ve found a twist on these scams, where the email, letter or phone call actually claims to be from the Treasury Inspector General, Eric M. Thorson. Some have convincing details about his career, appear to be on Treasury letterhead, and have links to email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org. These are frauds. Do not believe them, and do not respond to them. Please send them to OIGCounsel@oig.treas.gov; we will work to shut them down.
Another version of a Treasury scam involves a caller falsely representing that he is from Office of the Treasury and demanding payment or information (just like those bogus IRS calls). These callers have been described as threatening or abusive, and tell victims they need to make immediate payment to forestall arrest. Again, Treasury advises that these calls are frauds.
An even more sophisticated scam effort attempts to convince individuals to buy fraudulent promissory notes and/or private bonds. Some involve what are alleged to be Treasury issued or backed securities. Examples of those fake securities include “Limited Edition” Treasury Securities, One Year “Fresh Cut” Treasury bills; “U.S. Dollar Bonds”; Fraudulent “Federal Notes” or “Bonds” (also called “Morganthaus”); and “Defacto” Treasury Securities. To make it sound more legitimate, scammers may use routing numbers from Treasury bureaus, specifically the Financial Management Service (FMS) and the Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD), or a Federal Reserve bank, to make the false notes appear genuine. Don’t be fooled. If you hear these terms, be aware that they are all bogus securities.
Finally, those “redemption” or “acceptance for value” schemes are also completely fraudulent. In these schemes, scammers assert that the United States government has trust accounts linked to each citizen. Promoters tell potential victims that they can gain access to the funds – and discharge their debts – by issuing forms 1099-OID to their creditors. This scam is perpetually on the list of Dirty Dozen scams issued by IRS.
Be smart. There is no magical form or security that will make you rich. The government isn’t holding secret money in your name and no phone call, email or seminar can produce details that say otherwise.
Similarly, the IRS or Treasury won’t be calling you and asking you to provide personal financial information, including PINs and account numbers, over the phone.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the Treasury or IRS, here’s what to do:
- If you think you might owe federal taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. That’s the real IRS number and they can help.
- If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website or call TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
TIGTA encourages taxpayers to be on “high alert” for these scams.