IRS phone scam tops list of complaints to Attorney General

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) For the first time, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has received more complaints regarding IRS phone scams than complaints about credit repair, commonly known as the “Rachel from cardholder services” scam. The IRS scams are the fastest growing and most widespread calls the Attorney General’s Office has seen in years.

In the IRS scam, callers claim to be with the IRS and demand immediate payment of past-due taxes. Scammers might threaten arrest and jail time if the payment is not received immediately, and usually request that the money be paid back though the purchase of pre-paid cards.

The Attorney General’s Office has received more than 500 complaints about this scam in 2015, and more than 1,100 complaints were received in 2014. Many individuals who have filed complaints with the AG’s Office say the caller told them a warrant was out for their arrest and used very threatening language, demanding payments upwards of $3,000 or $4,000. Often, people received the call or a voice message multiple times.

“The reason this scam is so successful and pervasive is that people fear the IRS and may be willing to take rash actions to avoid trouble,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “Unfortunately, once you pay these criminals, that money is likely lost forever. Do not make any type of payment or give out any personal information to a caller unless you have verified the caller yourself and initiated the call. Gone are the days when we can pick up the phone and trust the person on the other end.”

The IRS will never initiate contact over the phone. They will always reach out first through official correspondence by mail. Additionally, the IRS will never ask for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone. People who receive a call like this should hang up immediately and report the scam to the IRS by calling 1.800.829.1040. They should also report the scam to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a complaint online at http://www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1.888.834.9969.

Zoeller said the prevalence of this scam serves as a reminder to Hoosiers to register their cell or landline phone numbers on the state’s Do Not Call list by May 19, the next quarterly deadline to sign up. Having your number on the Do Not Call list not only deters unwanted telemarketing calls, it acts as a red flag warning you that the call you are receiving is likely a scam.

To sign up, visit http://www.IndianaConsumer.com or call 1.888.834.9969. Individuals do not need to re-register unless their address has changed.

The top three most common telephone privacy complaints received by the Attorney General’s in 2015 so far include:

  1. The IRS Scam (552 complaints)
  2. Credit Services Scam, offering to lower credit card interest rate for a fee (442 complaints)
  3. Tech Support Scam, offering phony tech services to gain remote access to your computer (231 complaints)

Avoid getting scammed over the phone by following these tips:

  • Don’t let a telephone solicitor pressure you to make an immediate decision.
  • Ask for a caller’s contact information and tell them you will call them back. Verify that the number they give you is tied to a legitimate company by doing your own research.
  • Check unfamiliar companies with the AG’s Office or the Better Business Bureau before agreeing to a purchase.
  • Do not wire any money or make payments over the phone unless you have independently verified the caller.
  • Talk over big investments with a trusted family friend or financial advisor.
  • Never immediately respond to an offer you don’t thoroughly understand.
  • Hang up on recorded message calls or “robocalls.” Don’t press any numbers.

For more tips on avoiding telephone scams, visit http://in.gov/attorneygeneral/2538.htm.

People who receive an unwanted call or are targeted by a phone scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting http://www.IndianaConsumer.com or calling 1.800.382.5516.

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