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Thursday August 21, 2014

Washington News

Washington Hotline

Con Artists Posing as IRS Agents

Timothy Camus, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, spoke on August 12 to the National Association of Tax Professionals in Orlando, Florida. He reported that over 1,100 taxpayers have been fleeced of $5.25 million by con artists claiming to represent the IRS.

The IRS is currently tracking over 91,000 reports of con artists who are impersonating IRS employees. Camus stated, “That has been and continues to be the number one issue for us. I have spoken to people about identity theft, and though it continues to be a big, big problem, I think this impersonation scheme has overtaken it, in terms of impacting a broad number of people with large dollar amounts.”

The prime method for these con artists is to use a series of telephone calls. On the initial call, the con artist claims that he or she has an IRS badge number and often can state the final four numbers of the victim’s Social Security number. These last four digits are frequently acquired through records from medical centers, clinics or nursing homes.

The con artist claims to be from the IRS and many individuals are persuaded that this is the case. He or she typically will threaten the victim. Because the IRS has power to seize assets, the victim is frequently intimidated. The con artist will also regularly threaten to take away the victim’s driver’s license or business license.

The first caller is often followed by a second caller. This person claims to be a sheriff or police officer and states that the victim is going to suffer loss of various assets if the tax bill is not paid immediately.

The collection method is through a prepaid debit card. The con artist threatens victims and then directs them to go to a local store to purchase a debit card. This card is then transferred to the con artist.

Camus sought to reassure the attendees by noting, “Victims who refuse to cooperate are threatened with deportation or loss of business or driver’s license. The one thing I can guarantee you all is that the IRS will not take anybody’s driver’s license for not paying your taxes.”

Editor’s Note: Individuals and their professional advisors are urged to take basic steps to protect their personal information. It’s also important when you are on the Internet to avoid suspicious web sites. If you receive unsolicited and suspicious emails, block the sender using the appropriate command in your email account.

CPAs, attorneys and other professional advisors should encourage clients to be aware of the importance of protecting personal data. If clients are contacted by a con artist, they should report that person to the IRS. If the taxpayer does owe taxes, then the IRS number is 800-829-1040. However, if no taxes are owed and the taxpayer believes that the caller is a con artist, then he or she should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

Published August 15, 2014

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