The Times West Virginian

December 22, 2013

Nationwide IRS phone scam recently hits in West Virginia

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has sent out a release warning citizens of a nationwide IRS phone scam that has recently hit West Virginia.

In the scam, a caller will pose as an IRS worker, claiming the person owes back taxes. The caller will frequently back up their claim by giving a fake badge number, and making the caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling. The caller will then threaten the person with jail time, deportation, or the loss of their business or driver’s license unless they give financial information over the phone.

Callers have requested money orders, credit card numbers, debit card numbers or other financial information. They often call again, claiming to be the police or the DMV, again manipulating caller ID to support their claims.

Beth Ryan, communications director for the Attorney General’s office, said that the office’s consumer-protection division has received at least 16 written complaints, and numerous phone calls, including at least four calls Friday.

“We’re just trying to get the word out to West Virginians that if they get these calls, they need to be cautious, and they need to report it,” Ryan said. “They can call the IRS office, our office or local law enforcement.”

If you get a call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, Ryan said the first thing to do is remain calm.

“If you get a call like this, don’t panic. Be on guard that this likely is a scam,” Ryan said. “Don’t panic, don’t act rashly and don’t let anyone bully you. The IRS will never bully you over the phone.”

Ryan said that the scammers use people’s fear of the IRS to take advantage of them.

“It’s a big agency. There are a lot of laws related to taxes, and taxes confuse people, and so this scam preys on people’s general confusion about the tax system, and the ways that taxes are paid,” Ryan said. “This scam, like many scams, preys on people’s confusion, and uses the threat of authority to get people to do what the scammers want them to.”

If you owe taxes, the IRS will usually contact you by letter first, Ryan said. If you think you may owe taxes and want to check, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. If a scammer posing as an IRS representative contacts you, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808.

Ryan said that to protect yourself from this and other scams, be sure to never give out personal information, especially financial information, over the phone.

“Never give out your social security number, bank numbers or credit card numbers. People don’t call out of the blue, unless they’re trying to do a scam,” Ryan said.

“This is a despicable scam that plays off citizen’s fear and confusion about the IRS,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Citizens need to know this isn’t how a federal agency works.”

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.