Over the last six months, we have followed constantly evolving tax scams. Callers have become very good at impersonating IRS agents. Threats of immediate arrest are used to intimidate victims to pay supposed back taxes via Walmart wire service, iTunes gift cards and other prepaid cards. These schemes often target retirees and seniors. Reported taxpayer losses have surpassed $36 million.
Last week, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced the arrest of five people in Miami. They are allegedly responsible for scamming 1,500 victims out of almost $2 million.
How they were finally caught
The Washington Post reported that it was a call to the Fraud Hotline set up by the Senate’s Aging Committee.
The hotline caller explained that her husband received a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. He was directed to go to Walmart and wire approximately $2,000 through MoneyGram. On his way to the store, he was in a car wreck. Fearing threats made by the caller, he left the scene of the accident in a rush to send the payment.
Treasury agents were able to trace the money transfer. This resulted in the arrest of five suspects on wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
TIGTA reported it was making progress investigating these types of fraudulent schemes. In a statement, the head of the agency stated “our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”
Be skeptical of any caller claiming to be from the IRS
The IRS does not demand payment of taxes via any money-wiring method. Also, be on guard if a caller requests payment in the form or a prepaid debit card, secured credit cards or iTunes gift card.
The IRS does have various tools at its disposal to collect back taxes. These include liens against property, garnishment or seizure of assets. But written notices sent through the mail will precede any of these actions.
If concerned about a questionable phone call from a purported IRS agent, hang up. Then contact the Senate Aging Committee Fraud Hotline.