Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine last week warned that his office logged about 600 reports of “IRS” scams in June, more than in any other month this year.
The scam generally begins with a call claiming the recipient is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number to avoid arrest or legal action. People who respond to the call are asked to pay immediately, typically by purchasing a gift card and reading the card numbers over the phone.
Overall, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received more than 1,800 reports of the scam in 2017. Most consumers haven’t lost any money, but some have reported losses ranging from $100 to over $5,000.
“No one wants to get a call saying you’re in trouble with the IRS,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Scam artists rely on that fear and surprise. We just remind people that the real IRS isn’t going to call you unexpectedly and demand that you pay immediately over the phone. The best thing to do, if you’re getting these calls, is to hang up.”
Con artists may tell people an arrest warrant has been issued in their name, that they’re receiving a “final notice” from the IRS, or that they will be prosecuted for tax fraud if they don’t pay. The calls may appear to come from a Chicago (773) area code number, a Washington D.C. (202) area code number, or a variety of other phone numbers, but generally the calls are placed over the internet and the number that appears on the consumer’s caller ID does not reveal the true origin of the call.
To avoid phone scams:
• Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.
• Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card or prepaid card, or who demands that you send a wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay using one of these specific methods.
• Don’t respond to calls from unknown numbers. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t dial the number left on your phone. If the caller leaves a voicemail claiming to be from the IRS, don’t call the number left in the message. Instead, if you’re concerned you may owe a tax debt, call a number you know belongs to the IRS.
• Don’t rely on caller ID. Scam artists can make it appear as if their calls are coming from a local number or from a 202 (Washington D.C.) area code number, even when they are located in another country.
• Check into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
Report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.