Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
“As the tax filing season approaches, it is critical that all taxpayers remember to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees,” warns the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), J. Russell George. He further cautions that the callers are aggressive and relentless. “Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash. We continue to actively pursue those perpetrating this fraud, and we ask you to remain vigilant and report any calls you receive to our website.”
TIGTA released a flyer and poster to help alert taxpayers about fraudulent calls from scammers impersonating Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Treasury employees. Links to both and information about the scams can be accessed on the Treasury Department’s website, www.treasury.gov.
TIGTA cautions that, “The IRS generally first contacts people by mail—not by phone—about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order, or wire transfer. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any social media. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.” TIGTA also provides recommendations on what to do if a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and asking for payment is received. The recommendations include hanging up; reporting the scam via TIGTA’s website, www.tigta.gov; and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Further, TIGTA recommends that attachments in IRS-related email scams should not be opened and links should not be clicked, but rather reported, and encourages awareness of other scams, such as claims of winning lottery or sweepstakes and solicitations for debt relief offers that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
TIGTA describes the scam as the largest tax impersonation scam ever in the U.S., and reported that 56 alleged scammers associated with five call centers have been indicted, and 21 individuals were arrested in the U.S. Reports of more than 1.8 million people receiving an impersonation call have been made to TIGTA, and more than 9,600 victims have collectively paid more than $50 millionas a result of the scam. An additional approximately $21 million in losses and more than 4,000 victims have accrued since TIGTA sent out a similar alert last year.
I am trying to help get word out about this scam in the hopes that more do not fall victim to it. It is galling that Americans are spending millions on compliance with an overly burdensome tax code while having to be on guard against scammers manipulating its complexities. Unfortunately, Americans must be suspicious anytime they get a cold call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, given the well-document difficulties the IRS has just being able to answer legitimate phone calls from taxpayers with questions. I continue to work for comprehensive, long-term reform of our overly-complex and anti-competitive tax code to assist with economic and job growth and ease compliance. Eliminating complexity, broadening the base and significantly lowering rates for all Americans will make the code more clear, easier to meet its obligations and ideally more difficult to exploit.
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