In a deeply satisfying turn of events last week, 70 people were arrested in Thane, near Mumbai, India, for allegedly posing as IRS workers to cheat Americans. The IRS scam calls have increased in recent years as entire call centers were staffed by people whose full time job was to call Americans, especially recent immigrants, and attempt to fool them, using high pressure tactics and legitimate sounding information, into believing that they would be arrested for owing back taxes. Once a caller found a credulous mark, he would seal the deal by insisting that payment be made immediately, usually in the form of gift vouchers, such as iTunes gift cards. The IRS scam netted more than $150,000 each day, according to Mumbai police officer Parag Marere. If that number is a good daily average, this means that these call centers would be pulling in about $55 million annually.
The call center workers allegedly perpetrating the IRS scam were using personal information about the people they were calling, obtained from contacts in the United States, and making the calls over VoIP connections using spoofed numbers to appear to be genuine IRS investigators. They were even trained to speak with an American accent.
The ringleaders who masterminded this iteration of the IRS scam escaped arrest during the raid.
In Thane Call Centre Scam, 23 Questions That Reduced American Clients To Wrecks, by NDTV
Because the IRS scam is a perennial “favorite,” the Internal Revenue Service has released some tips to help potential targets realize the scam before it’s too late. These points, covered at the IRS.gov website, include reminders that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment or call about money owed without having sent a bill in the mail. They will never demand payment without providing a chance to question or appeal the amount. They will never require a specific payment method, and it’s a fair bet that they wouldn’t demand taxes be paid with iTunes gift cards. They won’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, and they won’t threaten to have police arrest you for not paying.
If you believe you legitimately owe back taxes and want to contact the IRS, they can be reached at 1-800-829-1040. If you want to report someone trying to perpetrate the IRS scam, a report can be filed via this link at the Federal Trade Commission.
Since other scams abound, including one where fraudsters impersonate police in order to demand cash or gift cards, it doesn’t hurt to be wary of callers who seem to be pushing a high pressure, scary scenario involving immediate payment of money, threatening arrest or deportation, with no chance to investigate or even to stop and think. Be careful, and don’t fall prey to scammers!