Scam threatens IRS lawsuit for back taxes

St. Francois and surrounding county residents have reported phone calls they have received from individuals claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service threatening legal action for back taxes they owe. The IRS warned the public that this is a scam and should be reported by going to the www.irs.gov website and typing "scam" in the search box. Now arrests have been made in India concerning the scams.

Several area residents have contacted the Daily Journal in recent days reporting a scam in which they have received phone calls from individuals identifying themselves as employees of the Internal Revenue Service who threatens legal action against them for back taxes owed to the government.

In addition to the potential victims being threatened with a lawsuit, others are being told they are in danger of being placed under arrest, having their utilities shut off or having their driver’s licenses revoked. The scammers are frequently insulting or hostile — apparently to scare their potential victims who are often receiving several of these harassing phone calls within the same day.

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a strong warning for consumers to guard against these sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide. Taxpayers should also be aware that there are other unrelated scams, such as a lottery sweepstakes, and solicitations, such as debt relief, that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS emphasizes it always sends taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

— Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

— Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

— Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

— Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

— Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

— After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

— If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.

— If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes, then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366.4484.

— 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.

For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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