North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Don’t fall for phone calls demanding tax payments

Release date: 12/12/2014

AG Roy Cooper, federal officials and BBB urge consumers not to fall for scam

Charlotte: Anyone who calls you and demands immediate payment for taxes is trying to rip you off, Attorney General Roy Cooper, federal officials and the Better Business Bureau said Friday.

To educate North Carolinians about this scam, Cooper today joined Anne Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, Melissa Chedotal, Special Agent in Charge with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Tom Bartholomy, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont, and a Charlotte resident who fell victim to the scam.

“Scammers posing as tax collectors are using fear and deception to swindle thousands of dollars from North Carolinians,” Cooper said. “If you get a call saying you could be arrested if you don’t pay taxes right away, don’t fall for it.  Hang up the phone and report the call to us.”

“Phone scammers are getting bolder, more creative and more aggressive and can mask their true identities to convince unsuspecting victims their demands for money are legitimate.  Be on the lookout for calls from imposters posing as IRS agents or law enforcement.  Do not yield to scammers’ threats and intimidation and do not fall prey to their demands,” Tompkins said.  “Also, I ask everyone to spread the word about these phone scams and be vigilant to protect the vulnerable, like the elderly.  My office is working in concert with our law enforcement partners to track down these con artists and bring them to justice.”

The scam starts with a telephone call from someone who claims to be with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or U.S. Treasury Department, demanding payment for unpaid taxes and threatening arrest if the consumer doesn’t pay immediately.  In some cases, the scammers will call back posing as local law enforcement officers prepared to arrest the caller if the phony tax bill isn’t paid.  The scammers often manipulate Caller ID to make it look like the calls come from the real government agency they are impersonating. 
 
Consumers who’ve gotten the calls report that they are told to pay via a reloadable debit card such as a Green Dot MoneyPak card.  Victims purchase the card, load it with funds and then call the phony tax collector back to provide the information needed to access the money.

“If you are contacted by anyone who demands immediate payment in cash, wire transfer or Green Dot card, don't be threatened into paying,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “We receive 8 to 10 calls every day on this scam and every person tells us how intimidating the fake IRS agents are.”

A total of 1,043 consumers have reported these calls to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division this year, up from 39 reports in 2013.  It’s likely that thousands of other people in North Carolina have gotten these calls, which are also targeting people in other states.
 
So far in 2014, Cooper’s office has heard from 22 consumers and who have lost a combined total of $98,703 to the fraudulent calls.  Reports this year include a Charlotte man who lost $16,500, a Fayetteville consumer who lost $13,962, a consumer from Wake Forest who lost $8,765, a Cary consumer who lost $6,824, a Gastonia consumer who lost $6,545, and a consumer from Greenville who lost $5,381.40.

Another 12 consumers would have lost nearly $40,000 but called Cooper’s office for help before they followed through to pay the money.

To protect yourself, remember:

  • The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, require you to provide payment information over the phone, or demand that you use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • No legitimate tax collector will threaten to arrest you or send law enforcement officers to your home if you refuse to pay taxes over the telephone.
  • If you believe you may owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit your local IRS office.
  • Report the call to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a consumer complaint at www.ncdoj.gov. You can also report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov
  • If you’ve fallen victim to the scam or are considering responding to one of these calls, call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
 
Fraudulent calls can be made by criminals anywhere in the world thanks to technology.  Telemarketing fraud rings frequently use Voice Over Internet Protocol (V.O.I.P) to make their calls harder to trace, and they use technology to make it appear that their calls come from another telephone number, called “spoofing.” 
 
Cooper’s office works with other states as well as local, federal and international law enforcement to try to locate and stop telemarketing fraud rings. Complaints made to the NC Attorney General’s Office about the fraudulent tax calls will be shared with federal law enforcement to aid investigations.
 
Reports from consumers who receive the calls or fall victim to them can provide helpful information to investigators, such as the phone numbers used by the scammers, the times and dates of calls, and any payment information provided by victims.

It’s especially important for victims to come forward, Cooper urged.  People who have paid money to a telephone scammer are at increased risk of future scams because telemarketing fraud rings often sell victims’ names and contact information to other criminals.

“These crooks can be very convincing, very clever, and very hard to catch,” Cooper said.  “That’s why it’s so important that we warn people about the calls, educate them not to fall for it, and encourage them to report it.” 

  Media Contact:  Noelle Talley, (919) 716-6413