Treasury Official: IRS Imposters Conned $15.5 Million From Taxpayers

By Melanie Arter | March 13, 2015 | 12:18pm EDT

(AP Photo)

( – IRS phone imposters swindled 3,052 taxpayers out of $15.5 million as of March 9, an average of $5,000 per victim, a top Treasury official told Congress Thursday.

Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, told the Senate Finance Committee that TIGTA received over 366,000 calls about the scam and between 9,000 and 12,000 reports of these calls per week.

People from almost every state have fallen victim to the scheme. California ($3,840,000), New York ($1,352,732), Texas ($795,884), Florida ($760,000), and Virginia ($648,363) are the top five states that have lost money to scammers as of Feb. 28, 2015, Camus said in prepared testimony.

One person lost as much as $500,000. Additionally, 296 of victims also provided sensitive identity information to scammers.

The scheme which involves “unsolicited” phone calls from someone claiming to be an IRS agent using a fake name and giving a “badge number” and claiming that the victim owes taxes and is “criminally liable” for the amount owed.

Callers may even know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number. They threaten the victim, saying if they don’t pay immediately, they will be arrested, lose their driver’s license or business license, or be deported. They call multiple times and often leave urgent messages for the victim to return their call, according to Camus.

As previously reported, victims are conned into buying prepaid debit cards, which are harder to trace and are not linked to a bank account.

Camus testified that he has even received a phone call from IRS imposters.

“In fact, I myself received one of these calls on my home telephone on a Saturday, and you may also have received a call or know of a family member or constituent who has received one as well,” Camus said. He told the scammer, “Your day will come.”

The calls are believed to be placed by more than one source. To deceive the victims, the criminals create a false phone number that shows up on the person’s caller ID and appears to be coming from Washington, D.C., or somewhere else in the U.S.

The scam is being investigated by multiple agencies. Camus said he could not give specifics on what they are doing to catch the perpetrators, because it could impede their ability to bring the culprits to justice. However, it is a “matter of high priority for law enforcement,” he said.

Camus disclosed, however, that they are going after some of those who process the money and noted that two people have been arrested for their role in converting the prepaid money cards.

“When interviewed, one of the defendants estimated she had used prepaid debit cards to purchase approximately $5,000 in money orders per day, six days a week, since November 2013, or roughly $900,000 in money order purchases between November 2013 and July 2014. In another case, in March 2014, an individual was indicted for using an impersonation scam. More specifically, he was indicted for extortion, false impersonation, and fraud,” Camus testified.

Camus said if taxpayers owe money to the IRS, they receive notice by mail. The IRS also will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, require taxpayers to use a specific method of payment for taxes, demand that the victim pay without giving them the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed, nor will they threaten to bring in the police to arrest them for not paying.

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