Elderly consumers around the country are being targeted by scammers and, unfortunately, the problem keeps getting worse. A recent news story out of Austin Texas about an elderly woman who was scammed out of $2500 underlines the growing problem.
The IRS is fully aware of the problem and, since it first issued a warning to consumers back in April 2014, has received more than 20,000 phone calls from around the country.
The scam involves callers, who have no affiliation with collection agencies, the IRS or other authorities, calling consumers to tell them that if they don’t pay their back taxes immediately they will be arrested. If they’re successful in convincing the consumer of their lies, they then request that the consumer go out and purchase preloaded debit cards in order to pay their taxes, insisting that this is the only way that they can pay and avoid having the police come out to their home.
In some cases the caller has threatened deportation to legal immigrants as well, something that inspires enough fear to be successful in many cases.
It’s been estimated that victims of the scam have paid up to the tune of over $1 million to these fraudulent “IRS agents”, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. In many cases the calls even show on the phone’s caller ID as coming from the IRS, and the callers oftentimes have the last four digits of their victims Social Security number as well.
In many cases, when victims don’t answer their phone the scammers leave angry phone messages that warn the victim about their impending arrest because of their failure to pay. When authorities have called back on the numbers left by the scammers, the usual response that they get is no response at all.
If you’ve had trouble with scammers trying to pull a scam on you as well, or you have elderly people in your family that might be vulnerable, here are a number of things you can do to protect them and make sure that they don’t unwittingly pay out to these thieves.
First, if you or a family member aren’t sure whether or not you owe money to the IRS, call them directly at 800-829-1040 to find out. Explain what’s happening and IRS worker will assist you with determining whether or not you owe money and, if you do, what payment options are available.
You should also report what happened to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The number to call is 800-366-4484. The more that they know about this IRS scam, the better. You can also file a complaint with the FTC on their website, FTC.gov.
Finally, keep in mind that if you actually do owe the IRS money in back taxes, the first thing they will do is let you know about it through the US mail. Also, the IRS will never ask you to pay for your tax debt using prepaid debit cards, wire transfers or anything of the sort. If someone is trying to convince you of this on the phone, it’s almost guaranteed that they are scammers trying to steal your money, and using fear of the IRS to do it.