A senior living in Santa Cruz County, Calif., got such a call. The caller said he was from the IRS Criminal Tax Fraud Unit, according to a consumer advisory from the Santa Cruz District Attorney's Consumer Affairs Office. The man told the woman, identified only as Hazel, that she owed more than $6,800 in overdue taxes and if she refused to allow access to her bank account for payment, she would face fines of more than $16,700.
Thank goodness Hazel contacted her tax preparer before sending any money. Another woman, identified as Mary from Michigan, wasn't so wise. Having already had some tax issues, she believed the caller when he said she owed the IRS $4,900 following a four-year audit of her returns, according to a local television report. The caller said a warrant for her arrest would be issued if she didn't pay immediately.
"You think that the guys are going to show up at your front door with handcuffs and take you away," the woman, hidden in shadows, tearfully told the news station.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, alarmed about the increasing number of people getting the phony calls, issued a warning last month. The agency said it has received reports of more than 20,000 contacts in the phony tax scam involving thousands of victims who have been cheated out of more than $1 million. The scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state, the agency said.
So here's what officials say you should do if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.
-- Hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Don't call any number the person gives you.
-- You can help other potential victims by reporting the call to the Treasury Inspector General at 800-366-4484. Also inform the Federal Trade Commission by filing a complaint at www.ftc.gov. In your complaint, be sure to indicate you're reporting an IRS telephone scam.