CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reminding residents to be on guard against a phone scam in which a caller pretends to work for the Internal Revenue Service and threatens residents if they don’t pay a certain sum using a pre-paid debit card or money order.

“Our office first issued warnings about this scam back in December, and we continue to get calls from people who are being harassed by people posing as IRS agents,” Morrisey said in a statement. “We’ve had more than 150 complaints from citizens since the end of May, and because of that, we felt it was important to remind people to take every precaution they can and hang up on these scammers.”

Morrisey said the callers often use aggressive language and threaten consumers with everything from losing their driver’s license or business license to jail time if the money isn’t paid immediately.

“This is a despicable scam that plays off of citizens’ fear and confusion about the IRS,” Morrisey said. “Citizens need to know this isn’t how a federal agency works.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), roughly 90,000 Americans have filed complaints about this scam. The agency said callers follow a very similar pattern, including:

  • Using common names and providing fake IRS badge numbers.

  • Reciting the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.

  • Making it appear as if the IRS is really calling.

  • Sending fake IRS emails to support their scam.

  • Calling a second time claiming to be the police or DMV to support their claim.

“While scammers often use high pressure sales tactics to force consumers into bad decisions, the IRS will never make threats of violence or ask you to pay via pre-paid cards or wire transfer,” Morrisey said. “If you do in fact owe money, the IRS will notify you through mail, not a phone call. If you get a call like this, remain calm. Scammers try to prey on panic and confusion to swindle honest people out of their hard-earned money.”

Morrisey said citizens who believe they may have a tax issue should contact the IRS directly, rather than answer questions from someone who calls or emails them out of the blue.

If someone claiming to be an IRS representative requesting payment, residents are asked to immediately hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808.

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