As if the Internal Revenue Service weren’t scary enough, an “IRS impersonation scam” continues to target millions of senior citizens.
Here’s how it works: Potential victims receive a phone call from someone purporting to be from the IRS. The caller claims the IRS has filed a lawsuit against them, and threatens to arrest them unless a payment is made immediately. The caller tries to coerce the victims into wiring money via MoneyGram, Walmart and other wire services.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates nearly 1 million Americans -- mostly senior citizens -- have been targeted, and 5,000 of them have lost a total of some $26 million last year alone.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins chairs the Senate Committee on Aging. A longtime leader in the fight against defrauding seniors, she recently reported the committee’s Fraud Hotline system had resulted in “Five big arrests in the IRS impersonation scam.”
One hotline caller reported her husband had been contacted by an IRS impersonator who demanded immediate payment of back taxes. He was told to go to a local Walmart and wire nearly $2,000 via MoneyGram to the caller.
The victim was so distraught over the imposter’s call, he crashed his car on the way to Walmart. Then he left the accident scene to send his payment because he was so afraid of the scammer’s dire threats of legal action if he failed to comply.
Fortunately, Treasury agents traced the money transfer to its destination in Miami, Fla., and arrested the five suspects for wire fraud. Court documents reportedly reveal the suspects are allegedly responsible for nearly $2 million in schemes that defrauded more 1,500 victims.
Russell George, Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration recently said, “The IRS impersonation scam continues to sweep the country, resulting in reported taxpayer losses of more than $36 million, averaging more than $5,700 per taxpayer.”
Well, that scam swept into Pleasant Cove, twice, to our home last week. First, a man called “John,” who sounded more like “Juan,” announced I was being sued for back taxes by the IRS.
Since I knew I didn’t owe any, I asked John if he knew he could go to the penitentiary for impersonating an IRS agent and trying to con a curmudgeon like me. He promptly hung up.
Second, a man called “Carl,” who sounded more like “Carlos,” hit me with the same scam. I countered with the same retort. I know, I should have just hung up the phone on John and Carl. But I couldn’t resist “giving them a piece of my mind,” even if I can barely afford it.
However, I did report the scam to my favorite local radio show, “Town Talk,” 473-9383. I also called the Treasury Department IG Hotline,1-800-366-4484, and the Senate Aging Committee Fraud Hotline, 1-855-303-9470.
If you’ve been called by an IRS scammer, hang up and report it. You’ll be glad you did.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.