Officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury are ushering in the 2016 tax season today with a warning about the resurgence of scammers who prey on taxpayers.
Scammers are continuing to impersonate Internal Revenue Service agents by phone and tricking or threatening taxpayers into handing over money — a scheme that made headlines throughout last year.
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Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Treasury, tells CBS News:
“They’re just ruthless criminals and they really don’t care about people. They don’t care about anything other than trying to intimidate you into paying them money.”
ABC News reports that Camus has received reports of nearly 900,000 calls from such criminals since October 2013. (People who receive such a call can report it on the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” page of the website for the Tax Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, which oversees the IRS.)
Additionally, roughly 5,000 victims have lost more than $26.5 million because of the scam.
One fraudulent caller told ABC:
“I am going to proceed you to the sheriff’s officer. And within the next hour they will be at your doorstep to handcuff you and put you behind bars.”
Treasury officials say the IRS never threatens taxpayers or calls to ask for immediate payment or a credit card number. The agency always sends a letter first when back taxes are owed.
Scammers’ tactics have evolved over time, Camus tells ABC, but one giveaway of this scam remains:
“These guys have changed over a period of time, where they just call out of the blue, and so as we’ve been warning people, that the first contact will not be by telephone. Part of the script now is, ‘Oh, we’ve been sending you letters that you’ve been ignoring.’
They’re changing their game as we’re putting out information on what to be aware of. But the one thing that has not changed is the threat of immediate incarceration if you don’t pay the money.”
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