Police in India have arrested at least 70 people involved with impersonating IRS agents at a fake call center in an attempt to defraud U.S. Taxpayers. Hundreds more are being held for questioning.
The popularity of this scam has grown exponentially as nearly every taxpayer has experienced a call like this first hand, or know a friend or acquaintance that has received calls like this. Over the last 3 years alone, the IRS has received nearly 1 Million complaints of similar low-tech scams which cost taxpayers over $26 Million. It has been previously reported that these calls have originating from countries like India, Pakistan & Russia:
According to police in Mumbai, the yearlong scam involved running fake call centers which sent voice mail messages telling U.S. nationals to call back because they owed back taxes.
Those who called back and believed the threats would fork out thousands of dollars to “settle” their case, Mumbai police officer Parag Marere said Thursday.
The scam brought in more than $150,000 a day, Marere said without giving a total sum. If the scam netted that amount daily, it would have made almost $55 million in one year.
Some victims were also told to buy gift vouchers from various companies, and hand over the voucher ID numbers which the impostors then used to make purchases, Marere said.
Police said they are likely to file charges against many of the 600 or more people still being questioned on suspicion of running the fake call centers, housed on several stories of a Mumbai office building…
Indian media reports said 70 percent of the scam’s proceeds were retained by the suspects in India, while the rest was paid to collaborators in the U.S.
Indian news broadcaster NDTV reported that one U.S.-based company allegedly collected the victims’ personal information and passed it to the fake call centers.
Here are some tips to avoid being the victim of a phone scam:
- The IRS rarely if ever initiates calls to taxpayers. If you owe tax money they will formally notify taxpayers with a mailed letter to the address listed on the tax return
- The IRS cannot demand payment on the spot; the IRS also offers payment plans
- The IRS does not request a specific type of payments like gift cards or prepaid debit cards
- The IRS will never ask for credit card information over the phone
This particular call center was working with U.S. based criminals who provided the taxpayer contact information to this call center. Protecting your private personal information is the first step in avoiding these types of scams. NEVER provide personal information over the phone. NEVER e-mail information that contains social security numbers, bank account number, credit card numbers, user names or passwords. R&G Brenner offers secure file transfer services free-of-charge to all of it’s clients who want a digital solution for sending tax related documents. All tax professionals who are serious about protecting their clients private tax information—whether independent, franchise or CPA— should offer a similar service. If you’d like more information about how R&G Brenner protects client data, feel free to contact us at (888) APRIL-15 or by clicking here.
Lastly, if you feel that you are becoming a target for a scam like this, you can report it to the IRS by calling: (800) 366-4484.