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Tactics IRS impersonators use to steal money

Yesterday, we provided five tips directly from the Internal Revenue Service for spotting suspicious phone calls. Today, we detail just how easy it is to fall victim when it seems to be the IRS on the phone.

CNN reported the details of how one 32-year-old woman lost $30,000 to an impersonator. The woman received a phone call from a man claiming to be an IRS agent. He said the IRS had been trying to reach her. It was her last chance to immediately pay $30,000 in back taxes or local police would arrest her.

The call was from a Washington D.C. area code. The caller knew her information and provided a case number. The woman had received a back tax notice years prior to the call. She had immediately paid, but thought she might have owed more or not received a follow up notice.

When she asked to call back, the caller threatened immediate arrest, jail time up to eight years, driver’s license suspension, seizure of account funds and wage garnishment. The caller instructed her to take the amount due from her banks accounts in cash and then purchase prepaid debit cards. Once she scratched off the codes on the back of the cards and read them over the phone, the imposter could transfer the money and cash it out.

The woman, shaken by the experience, later talked to a friend who sent a link to news of an IRS phone scam. She realized that she had lost her savings. She reported the theft at a local police station, but it’s unlikely she will get her money back.

This account shows just how easy it is for anybody to be taken by sophisticated impersonators who use caller ID spoofing and prepaid cards that are hard to trace. Even if you owe back taxes, never give payment information over the phone.

Source: CNN Money, "An IRS impersonator stole $30,000 from me," Blake Ellis, September 2, 2014.

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