COLUMBUS - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warns that his office is receiving more reports of IRS imposter scams as the April 18 tax filing deadline approaches.
Since March 1, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has logged nearly 1,000 reports of the scam, compared to about 500 reports in February.
The scam generally begins with a call claiming the recipient is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number for more information. Eventually, the person is asked to provide money or personal information, supposedly to resolve the problem or avoid jail time.
"Scam artists do this every single day, and we're seeing even more of it right now," DeWine said. "They'll call you, tell you how much you owe, and tell you to wire money or go buy a prepaid card and give them the numbers. They rely on people being so afraid that they agree to do this right away."
Although most consumers who contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office about tax-related phone scams haven't lost any money, nationally the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that since October 2013 more than 5,500 victims collectively have paid about $29 million as a result of the scam.
To avoid IRS 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 prepaid card or sending a wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists. The real IRS won't demand that you pay over the phone using one of these specific methods.
- Don't respond to illegal robocalls in any way. Don't interact with the caller, and don't call a number left on your phone or in a message. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls because it lets con artists know that your phone number belongs to a real person.
- Don't always trust caller ID. Scammers may "spoof" a phone number, making the number on your caller ID appear to be from the IRS, even when it's not. They may make it look like the call is originating from Washington D.C. to appear more legitimate.
- 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.
IRS or U.S. Treasury impersonation scams can be reported to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484. Consumers also can contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515 for help detecting a scam.
Audio of a reported "IRS" scam call is available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.