5 On Your Side

IRS, NC officials warn against tax scams

Posted December 30, 2014

— Tax-filing season starts in a few weeks, but state and federal officials say scam artists are already in full swing.

Thousands of people across North Carolina have gotten calls from con men claiming to work for the Internal Revenue Service. They say someone owes money for unpaid taxes and threaten to have the person arrested and taken to jail unless the taxes are paid immediately, often via a debit card.

"These are not official calls. These are people who are trying to rip you off," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

Cooper said the Consumer Protection Division of his office has received more than 1,000 calls about the scam this year, compared with just 39 in 2013. Twenty-two people statewide lost about $98,000 total in the scam in 2014.

The scheme is elaborate, he said, noting the con men spoof phone numbers so that caller identification features on phones make it appear the call is from the IRS or from local police attempting to make an arrest.

"These scammers are smart," he said. "They'll go through social media or public records and find out something about you. ... Then, they'll hit you where you are vulnerable."

Cooper said more people likely have fallen prey to the scam than reported, but they've been too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.

IRS officials also are trying to spread awareness of the scam, which operates nationwide, by posting a video about it online.

"We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues," an official says in the video. "Angry, harassing calls like these are not how we do business."

Cooper said that people should call the IRS themselves if they are unsure whether they owe back taxes.

Most of the scammers are based overseas, so it's hard for law enforcement to find them.

Cooper said people need to be wary because, once they turn over a debit card number, any money paid to the scammers is gone.

"Understand that, if people call you on the phone and want something immediately, it's a scam. Don't fall for it. Hang up the phone, and call us," he said.


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