'Despicable' IRS scam still plagues state, Attorney General says

By Chris Dickerson | Sep 21, 2015

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey again is warning residents to be on guard against scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service representatives.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division continues to be contacted daily by residents who believe they’ve been contacted as part of this scam, which claims a person has an unpaid tax bill that must be paid off immediately. These IRS scam complaints have recently made up a significant percentage of the office’s Consumer Protection Hotline daily call volume.

“These scammers are ruthlessly persistent in harassing West Virginians,” Morrisey said. "These scammers use aggressive language and threaten everything from jail time to deportation to loss of a driver's license or business license if a person doesn’t pay an IRS account balance immediately."

According to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the federal government has received about 600,000 reports of various phone, email and text scams. Roughly 4,000 victims have reported more than $20 million in total losses from these scams.

In addition to scare tactics, scammers will often use what’s known as “caller ID spoofing” to make it look like they are calling from an official government number. They also use fake IRS titles and badge numbers, as well as online resources to obtain a person’s name, address and other life details prior to calling.

“People obviously become concerned when they hear they owe someone money, but consumers need to remain calm and not fall for these tricks,” Morrisey said. “This is a despicable scam that plays off of citizens’ fear and confusion about the IRS, but this is not how a federal agency works.”

The IRS has consistently warned people that they will never:

* Call you to demand immediate payment. The first step the IRS will take is to send a bill in the mail.

* Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount that you owe.

* Require that you pay your taxes a certain way, such as requiring that you pay with a prepaid debit card.

* Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

* Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

Anyone who receives one of these calls should not provide the caller any information and hang up immediately.

The Attorney General’s Office has set up a special webpage regarding this scam at http://www.ago.wv.gov/consumerprotection/Pages/IRS-Phone-Scam-Information.aspx. Residents who are contacted as part of an IRS scam can use that webpage to report the incident to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

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