Crime

Robocalls from fake IRS agents are trying to scam you

“We are calling to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuit against you.”

It’s a robotic voice, which may seem to be coming from Washington D.C. or your local police department. It may leave a voicemail, or it may be a human voice, sometimes with an accent. But it isn’t the IRS, and local police departments want you to know that.

At the Edwardsville Police Department alone, up to a dozen calls a day are reporting these “pfishing” calls, more prominent now due to tax season. The return ID may seem to be from an official number, but that is being masked, according to Lt. Mike Fillback. The voicemail may be from a robot trying to get you to call back, while the live person may try to get you to send a gift card or Moneygram - once, an iTunes gift card - to pay off your supposed debt.

If you don’t agree, they may threaten to send a police officer over to arrest you.

“Obviously it’s bogus, government never works that fast if you don’t pay your taxes,” Fillback said. “Disconnect the call.”

Obviously it’s bogus, government never works that fast if you don’t pay your taxes.

Edwardsville Police Lt. Mike Fillback

As of last month, the IRS has received reports of more than 5,000 people who have collectively paid more than $26 million to scammers due to these calls. That’s out of nearly 900,000 calls that have been reported to the federal government, to say nothing of the reports to local law enforcement or that are not reported at all. Several metro-east police departments have posted on social media in the last couple of days warning residents about the scam, which has made the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” this year.

Residents are reminded that the IRS will never call to demand payment or call about taxes owed without first mailing a bill. You always have the opportunity to question or appeal any tax debt. You will never be asked to pay with a prepaid debit card, gift card, Moneygram or any specific form of payment. The IRS also will never threaten to arrest you or ask for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information over the phone.

If anyone asks for that information, hang up immediately, Fillback said. If you have any concerns about a potential tax debt, call the IRS directly, using the real numbers, not the ones given to you by the caller. The IRS phone number is 800-829-1040, and legitimate tax workers can assist you with your case.

Unfortunately, Fillback said, the callers are usually out of state or out of the country, so there is often little that local police can do except take a report. :It’s next to impossible,” he said. The federal government does take reports of pfishing calls, and if you wish to report the call, go to the website for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. at www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam_shtml. You can also call them at 800-366-4484. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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