People across the country and here in Arizona are falling victim to a tax scam. The IRS is holding a press conference in Phoenix on September 3 to warn the public about the scam, which has already hit 1,100 victims to the tune of $5 million. Potential phone scam victims are being told they owe taxes that must be paid immediately with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer by callers claiming to be IRS employees. Bill Brunson of the Phoenix IRS office will talk about the scam.
Ted Simons: IRS held a press conference in Phoenix today to warn the public about a tax scam that's already hit 1100 victims to the tune of $5 million. Bill Brunson of the IRS is here with more on alarmingly successful phone scam. Good to see you again.
Bill Brunson: Ted, thank you for having the IRS on.
Ted Simons: Go ahead.
Bill Brunson: I was going to update that number. It's 1200. The dollar amount of those individuals being bilked out is 5 million. Here in Arizona we have seen 25 identified victims, about 250 calls have come in on this. They have taken these 25 people for $80,000. It's a terrible item that continues to happen and we want folks not to fall for it.
Ted Simons: Well let's find out what they're not supposed to fall for. Describe the scam.
Bill Brunson: I call you and I say, Ted, I work for the IRS, I really don't, that you owe taxes appeared you may or may not, and if you don't pay those taxes immediately by prepaid debit card or wire transfer and get that money to me I'm going to throw you in jail or deport you or take away your driver's license or something else along those lines. These callers are very aggressive. They are individuals that know how to use an old tool, the telephone, but they spoof the caller I.D. so it comes across as if you're calling from the Internal Revenue Service.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Bill Brunson: They may threaten you at a later time saying they are from the motor vehicle division and that caller I.D. will show motor vehicle division. The key factor here is that if you owe money the Internal Revenue Service will send you a notice in the mail. You'll get a formal billing. You won't get an unsolicited phone call saying you owe X amount, pay now.
Ted Simons: I want to go through this step by step. First you're told you owe taxes. Will the IRS ever call you like this to tell you you owe taxes?
Bill Brunson: Not in this manner. If we do say give you a call it's going to be on something you already are aware of and have had dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. You may be getting a revenue officer calling you about a specific item that they need clarification on or say an additional document if you have an audit going, but it's not where you owe X, and you need to pay with prepaid debit cards. We give you an option of payment plans there are process in place already.
Ted Simons: They are told they must be paid, this tax must be paid immediately. The IRS emphasize immediate payment?
Bill Brunson: No. As a matter of fact you as a taxpayer have certain rights. You can refute any sort of bill that we have sent to you but you're going to have to prove as to why you're correct. You can even go to tax court. Where these folks are not going to give you that opportunity. They demand money now.
Ted Simons: That should are proof it's not the IRS.
Bill Brunson: It's an indicator, that, yes.
Ted Simons: the business of the debit cards and wire transfers, does the IRS ever use prepaid debit cards as way to pay back taxes? 18:41:54:21
Bill Brunson: No. We do have a direct debit where you provide to us certain factors such as your account number and a routing identifier, but that's something that you initiate and you've done that willingly over a period of time once you find out your options for payment.
Ted Simons: Does the IRS ever ask for pin numbers over the phone?
Bill Brunson: No. We will never ask for any sort of password, no. If we get a call like that, please, hang up. Don't engage. Don't provide them with any personal or financial information because not only then you could be subject to, say, identity theft, which then could lead to, say, tax fraud for them filing a tax return in your name.
Ted Simons: So besides hanging up what do you do if you're contacted by one of these folks?
Bill Brunson: Contact the treasury inspector general for tax administration. These are the folks that are in charge or looking at this very closely. They will take that information and use it and say shut down these individuals and catching them and putting them in jail. Contact the treasurer inspector general for tax administration.
Ted Simons: That sounds foreboding.
Bill Brunson: Go to IRS.gov. It's available there. Treasury inspector general has their own website and a toll free 800 number. If you go to their website you can provide the information in the form of, say, a questionnaire that they have, or you can call them and leave a message.
Ted Simons: How do you know it's the IRS when the IRS really wants to contact you?
Bill Brunson: We're going to come across as an authentic agency. We won't say call you unsuspectedly. We would send notification up front first. From there you would then say call a number on that particular form. You can always come into one of our offices and ask about a particular individual, and if you feel somebody isn't from the IRS, don't engage with them. You can call your local police department. We'd with be ahead to identify who we are to you from there.
Ted Simons: It sounds like the IRS is looking for a dialogue as opposed to these folks, which is immediate satisfaction.
Bill Brunson: Exactly. Exactly.
Ted Simons: As far as scams are concerned, this among the more sophisticated out there?
Bill Brunson: It may not be the most sophisticated but it is working, which is bad, and it's very pervasive. It seems like it's not going away.
Ted Simons: And we're talking phone calls here. What about emails and that kind of contact?
Bill Brunson: If you get an unsolicited email asking for personal financial information that's bad news in itself. Anything comes in unsolicited, across the phone or in your inbox, be wary and don't engage. If you feel that it is the IRS, wait a couple of days and then call us on our toll free line or stop by one of our offices and we would be happy to go over your account and explain if there's anything going on or you do owe.
Ted Simons: good information. Hope folks are paying attention and realize whatever they think of the IRS they are not going to come after you saying do it now, do it now, by the way, no contact with us prior.
Bill Brunson: We don't work that way.
Ted Simons: Good to see you again.
Bill Brunson: Ted, thank you.
Bill Brunson:Spokesman, IRS;