COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that his office has seen an increase in reports of the IRS imposter scam, in which con artists tell consumers they are in trouble with the IRS.
Between Nov. 18 and Nov. 25, the Ohio Attorney General’s Help Center received more than 600 reports of the scam, about three times as many as the previous week.
“Many people hear the word ‘IRS’ and are scared to death,” Attorney General DeWine said. “If you get one of these calls, hang up and take a moment to think about it. The real IRS isn’t going to call you demanding immediate payment.”
Most consumers who report the IRS scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office do not lose money, but nationally, nearly 4,550 victims collectively have paid over $23 million as a result of the scam since October 2013, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The scam generally begins with a phone call or voicemail message telling the consumer that he or she is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number for more information. When consumers call the provided number, they are told they must send money using a prepaid card or wire transfer to correct the problem. Ultimately, any money sent will go to a scam artist, not the IRS.
In some recent variations of the scam, the con artist claims to be “David Gray,” and tells consumers that a lawsuit will be filed against them, that they owe a tax debt, that they have committed a criminal offense, or that the U.S. Treasury will come to arrest them.
Tips for consumers to avoid tax-related phone scams include:
Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, it’s almost certainly a scam. Also, don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately via wire transfer or prepaid card. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists.
Don’t respond to illegal robocalls in any way. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t call a number left on your phone or in a message. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls because it lets con artists know that your phone number belongs to a real person.
Look into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
U.S. Treasury or IRS impersonation scams can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484.
Consumers also can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515 for assistance.