IRS scam calls spike ahead of October deadline

Published: Sep. 18, 2018 at 1:26 PM EDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

A scam that remains popular year after year is back.

Numerous police departments and sheriff's offices, as well as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, are sending out warnings about a recent spike in calls from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service.

Morrisey says it's likely related to the upcoming Oct. 15 filing deadline for those who sought an extension in April.

The scam usually starts with a phone call from someone claiming they're with the IRS telling you that you owe money and will be arrested if you refuse to follow instructions.

Typically, the caller will tell you that you owe immediate payment. When you refuse to cooperate or question their legitimacy, they'll usually respond with threats of imminent arrest.

At times, the impostor may use common names, claim to know the last four digits of your Social Security number and even pose as their own supervisor if you ask for management.

Here in the Valley, the Augusta County and Page County Sheriff's Offices' have said they have had numerous reports of phone call scams. While Staunton Police said they have about 20 reported in the last two days.

"The most common thing to be on the lookout though, is for them to call, trying to establish a sense of urgency and then demanding money," said Sgt. Katie Shifflett with Staunton Police. "One of the most common things we've seen is them demanding that a wire transfer be made or asking for giftcard codes."

Some calls claim to represent the U.S. Treasury Department, legal affairs and other groups.

In just the past week, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received hundreds of calls about such a scam, including a few who lost money when they bought gift cards to comply with the caller's demands.

From the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2017, at least 1.9 million people reported receiving unsolicited telephone calls from fake government agents, according to the inspector general for tax administration. Over 10,300 victims paid more than $55 million to the criminals in that time period.

“Consumers must be cautious and cannot allow themselves to be intimidated,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Any such call is a scare tactic used by scammers in an attempt to squeeze money from consumers’ pockets.”

Remember that the actual IRS will never:

- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill..

- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Other characteristics of an IRS scam call to watch for include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Caller ID information to support their bogus representation

• Use out-of-state telephone numbers

• Use of automated calling machines

• Use of fake government badge numbers and phony emails

• Follow-up calls claiming to represent a different agency

This is one of many phone scams that involve a caller posing as a figure of authority to take your hard-earned money. Several of the most common scams police have seen include callers

and requesting money to get out of trouble; claiming to be an authority and

and needing to pay money to avoid arrest; or offering you an opportunity to "make money quick" by sending checks to start a business venture.

Other common phone scams include: people


, and often


The Attorney General strongly urges all consumers to ignore such calls, do not return voicemails and report any victimization to the U.S. Inspector General's Office on Tax Administration at

or email or

Questions can be directed to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 statewide or 304-267-0239 in Martinsburg. To file a report online, go to


If you receive such a call, get as much information as you can from the caller without giving your own information and then contact your local police department or report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The Winchester Police Department offers the below tips to help avoid falling victim to a telephone scam:

• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payments.

• Never give out personal or financial information to unsolicited callers, including: account numbers, social security numbers, passwords or other identifying information.

• Never wire money, provide debt or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak card numbers to someone you do not know.

• If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement or agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.

• Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know. With spoofing becoming more common, question the number on the caller ID. Be cautious and verify the person on the other end of the phone.

• Don’t be afraid to tell the caller you need time to think about your decision. Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or call your department.

You can learn more about other scams targeting our area and how to prevent or respond to them at


You can learn more about scams affecting our area