Roughly 4,550 people have paid more than $23 million over the past two years to scammers claiming to be employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), according to a news release from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The Treasury Inspector General, J. Russell George, reports that while progress has been made in the investigation of “the largest of its kind” scam, the case is still underway and taxpayers are urged to remain on “high alert.”
According to the release, a scammer calls an individual and claims to be from the IRS. The scammer tells the person that they have unpaid taxes and threatens him or her with a criminal violation, immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license unless they settle the fees via a debit card or a wire transfer. In order to feign legitimacy, the scammers use tactics such as using a robocall machine, knowing the last four digits of the individuals Social Security number or sending fake IRS emails.
“The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming,” George says. “At all times, and even after the tax filing season, we want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alerted to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals.”
George advises to hang up immediately if you receive a phone call from somebody claiming to be from the IRS demanding immediate payment. An estimated 736,000 people have reported receiving these calls since October 2013.
Over the summer, one of the ringleaders of the extortion scam was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison. According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Sahil Patel helped organize the U.S. side of the fraud, which is run through “call centers” in India.