On the eve of Halloween, the Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers about a telephone scam that is so pervasive it could play a nasty trick on many taxpayers.
The scheme involves phone calls in which would-be victims are told they owe money to the IRS. The callers tell the targets of the scam to pay right away by credit card, through a pre-loaded debit card, or by transferring money by wire.
The callers are hardly polite with those who refuse. Instead, the callers threaten numerous negative consequences, such as arrest or suspension of someone's driver's license.
The callers also threaten undocumented immigrants with deportation. This means that immigrants are particularly at risk of becoming the victims of this scam.
Last week, the acting IRS commissioner, Danny Werfel, tried to reassure taxpayers that the IRS does not engage in such tactics. He said the IRS does not ask taxpayers over the phone for credit card numbers. Similarly, the agency does not ask taxpayers to make wire transfers or provide pre-paid debit cards.
The acting commissioner also said the IRS does not threaten people over the phone with arrest, license suspension or deportation.
These may seem like very basic points. But to people who are uninformed about how the IRS operates, the threats often seem credible. And this is especially the case for immigrants who fear deportation.
Moreover, the scam is a sophisticated one. It makes use of such technical tricks as the ability to "spoof" someone's caller ID program to make it look like the IRS is calling.
And so, on the eve of Halloween, the IRS issued a warning about such tricks.
Source: IRS.gov, "IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam," Oct. 31, 2013