Here’s how it works:
Fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and pressure them with demands for payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. They threaten their targets with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license, said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
The fake agents mask their caller ID, making it look like the call is coming from the IRS. In some cases, even more frightening, fake agents know the last four digits of Social Security numbers. They go so far as to follow up their targets with official-looking emails.
The reports about the scam describe how immigrants were targeted first, and threats of deportation were very effective. It has since spread to thousands of other victims in most states.
Imagine your aging parent getting one of these calls. Unsuspecting, intimidated and wanting to comply. You, as the adult child with more of a fraud antenna might wonder why a supposed IRS agent would call you, as the IRS always communicates with a taxpayer via mail. Your aging loved one might not think of that. When a second call comes in, once again with caller ID masked and faked to look like the police department or the Department of Motor Vehicles, it looks even more like the threat of consequences for not paying is real.
What if your parent really does owe back taxes? They can call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 and get the truth. The IRS never demands wire transfers or debit card payments nor do they use license suspension or deportation as a threat.
Most of us understand that when someone demands payment over the phone by wire transfer or debit card that you should simply hang up. But not everyone knows this, particularly the 20,000 or so people who have been tricked so far with just this scheme.
So, keep your loved ones safe, especially your elderly family members. Warn them about this latest scam and follow up with questions as to whether they have gotten any calls like the ones described here, from anyone posing as an IRS agent. These scams escalate around tax time.
In consulting with families who have elderly loved ones as we do here at AgingParents.com, we often find that adult children want to believe that their parents are still competent and that such a thing could never happen to them because their parents are intelligent, or well educated, or they had work experience in finance, etc. But these clever scum with the fake IRS calls can probably fool even a smart, well educated person because the scheme gets past “filters” like caller ID and knowing the last digits of a person’s Social Security number. This is too scary to ignore.
Not only am I going to warn my 91 year old mother in law about this, but I’m going to ask her to tell all her friends at the seniors’ community where she lives. I’ll let my own adult kids know about this scam too. I hope you will do the same.