Utahns warned to beware of IRS phone scam

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IRS impersonators have been calling people throughout Utah, demanding immediate payment on invented overdue taxes.
IRS impersonators have been calling people throughout Utah, demanding immediate payment on invented overdue taxes.

Susan Bramble, wife of Republican State Senator Curtis Bramble, recently received a concerning call from a number she did not recognize. The man on the other end of the line said he was from the Office of Legal Affairs with the IRS and accused Susan Bramble of owing money on her taxes. Unconvinced, she hung up the phone only to have the man call back twice, threatening her with various legal punishments.

When Curtis Bramble heard the account he recognized the call as a scam; there is no Office of Legal Affairs within the IRS.

Utahns have lost more than $28,000 to scammers impersonating the IRS since August of this year, according to the Treasury Inspector General of the Tax Administrator. IRS spokesperson William Brunson said more than 12,000 people in the U.S. have fallen prey to these phony calls, losing about $5 million dollars total.

“Don’t fall for these phony phone calls. Fake IRS con artists will continue to circle the state trying to find someone who will take the bait,” said Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce in a press release.

According to Daniel O’Bannon, with Utah’s Department of Commerce, these IRS impersonators call accusing people of owing money to the IRS or occasionally telling them they have a refund coming and requesting personal bank information. They demand immediate payment through a specific method, frequently a prepaid debit card or sending money via wire transfer, methods of payment that are difficult to trace.

If resisted, callers have threatened citizens with jail time, fines and other punishments, including deportation for Spanish-speaking residents.

“(The IRS is) not going to dictate the style or demand payment that day, “Brunson said. “We don’t do business that way.”

The Utah Department of Commerce listed five red flags for Utah residents to look out for that the IRS would never take part in:

  1. Someone calls regarding owed taxes without first mailing an official notice.
  2. They demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the IRS claims you owe.
  3. They require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or sending money via wire transfer.
  4. They ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. They threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

They gave instructions for what to do if one receives a phony IRS call. Citizens should report incidents to the treasury inspector general for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-448 or at www.tigta.gov. If people think they may owe taxes they can call 1-800-829-1040, and IRS workers can help them with a payment issue.

If contacted, “Don’t engage, just hang up,” Brunson said.

O’Bannon encouraged college students and younger people, who may be less likely to fall for the scam, to call and warn parents and grandparents.

According to Brunson, some scammers have the ability to make their ID appear as if it is the IRS on people’s phones. Curtis Bramble also explained that the impersonators who called his wife did use some accurate information, pretending to have an employee ID and listing off correct form names.

Neither O’Bannon nor Brunson could identify where scammers find the information they use to target individuals.

Curtis Bramble said he has received phone calls from other Provo residents, even BYU professors, informing him that they have received similar calls and asking what they should do.

“Remember, an educated consumer is a con artist’s worst nightmare,” Giani said in the press release.

 

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