Thursday, February 11, 2016

Attorney General’s Office Warns Consumers of 'IRS scam'

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s office today warned of a new variation of a pervasive telephone scam that aims to defraud taxpayers. The well-known “IRS scam” has reemerged recently, but this time fraudsters are posing as U.S. Treasury agents.

The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in recent weeks has received several complaints regarding the scam. The Bureau urges consumers to be alert for unwanted calls that seem legitimate but make consumers feel pressured to act without validating information.

Those targeted in the "IRS scam” are typically told they are entitled to large tax refunds, or that they owe money and must pay immediately. Those responsible for the scam calls often are reported to be aggressive and persistent. The caller may capitalize on false impressions to pressure consumers to take action.

These scammers may seem legitimate by referencing a consumer’s personal information that is not publicly available. Sometimes this information may have been stolen from companies that suffered data breaches. This information may include:
  • The last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Information about the consumer’s family members.
  • "Spoofing" a consumer's caller ID to appear legitimate. Callers may represent themselves as being affiliated with the local police or state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Consumers should remain calm and verify their tax status directly with the IRS by calling 1-800-829-1040. They should also report these scams to local law enforcement and to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Hotline, which is available at 800-366-4484 or online .

Consumers are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid becoming a victim of this or other phone scams:
  • Never give out sensitive personal or financial information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger.
  • Never wire money or purchase green dot-type prepaid cash cards in response to a telephone appeal, whether it is from a stranger or someone who claims to know you or an organization you may be familiar with.
  • Never let emotion or fear overcome your common sense. If you get a call from someone claiming to be a government agency or law enforcement, slow down and verify everything. Don't let anyone rush you. You can always hang up and call the agency directly to verify.
  • Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company or agency that you are certain is legitimate.
Consumers with questions or who feel they have been victimized by phone scams may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection by . The Bureau is also available by phone at 800-441-2555 or by email .