A warning about the number one scam hitting homes across America: Threatening phone calls claiming to come from the IRS.
The IRS estimates more than 1,000 victims have lost more than $5 million.
An Appleton man compelled to get out the warning called Target 2’s Tammy Elliott for this Consumer Alert report:
“We have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from IRS — Internal Revenue Services,” says the fraudulent phone call.
This unsettling voice message came to a cell phone Swain Anderson rarely uses: “The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you. To get more information about this case file, please call immediately,” the message continues.
“I didn’t go into a panic, but I thought well, IRS and lawsuit… you know, come on,” said Anderson.
Anderson was extra cautious because years ago his father was audited by the IRS.
“So it hit home, it hit home,” said Anderson.
Anderson listened to the voicemail again, called his tax preparer, and then called Target 2.
Did he think he owed money to the IRS?
“No,” Anderson replied.
He had never heard of the IRS imposter call scam.
Anderson was surprised it topped the list of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau.
The number of these type of calls is escalating.
“It upset me,” she said. “It cost me an hour out of my day of worry.”
We played the voicemail for the director of the Fox Cities Better Business Bureau.
“Boy, that really sounds convincing. and I think the robocall makes it sound more official,” said BBB Regional Director Susan Bach.
Bach says they get daily complaints about imposter IRS calls.
Often it’s an actual person claiming they’re with the IRS, threatening to arrest or sue if the victim doesn’t pay. That’s something the IRS would not do.
“If you really did have problem with income taxes, the first thing the IRS would do is mail you a letter,” Bach explained. “They’re not going to leave a message on your answering machine or email you.”
It’s tax time, and the Federal Trade Commission is partnering with AARP and other organizations on new campaigns about the escalating scam.
They’re reminding people the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment without first having mailed you a bill.
The IRS won’t threaten you . The IRS will never require you to use a specific form of payment, like a prepaid debit card.
Swain Anderson did the right thing. He did not return the call and did not give up any personal information.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Remember, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.