IRS Warns of Scam Targeting Immigrants

The IRS recently warned U.S. taxpayers, especially recent immigrants, about a telephone scam, which informs individuals they owe money to the IRS that must be paid immediately using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The scammers also tell potential victims they could be arrested, deported or have their business or driver’s licenses suspended if they don’t pay up. The caller may become rude and hostile.

Fraudsters pretending to be with the IRS often:

  • Use common names ‘Bill Smith’ and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the would-be victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails todisguise or support their scam.
  • Request personal information.

How the fraud works:

The scammers, pretending to be IRS representatives, sometimes send a bogus e-mail to individuals to support their bogus phone calls. They generally use common names to identify themselves. Other characteristics:

  • Scammers “spoof” the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Victims may hear background noise of other calls being conducted that make it seem like the call is coming from a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up. Then, others call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via standard or “snail” mail. Not the telephone.

Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to the scam because they are not as familiar with IRS procedures and enforcement strategies as U.S. citizens are. The ruse has not targeted any particularly economic, immigrant, racial or other group although new residents to the U.S. seem to be particularly vulnerable.

IRS officials have been warning the public to be on the alert for other e-mail scams and phone calls that exploit its name as bait. The tax agency reminds taxpayers that it never contacts taxpayers via e-mail, text messages or any type of social media for personal or monetary information. Nor does the IRS ask for passwords, PINs, or other private information associated with bank, credit card, or other monetary accounts. The IRS further warns taxpayers never to open attached files or click links associated with what seems like it could be from scammers.

Although this is the most recent fraud targeting immigrants as the 2013 holiday season approaches, similar scams have been unleashed by fraudsters claiming to represent other national tax authorities, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Inland Revenue (the revenue collection department of New Zealand), Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs HMRC (UK’s taxing agency) and the Income Tax Department (taxing agency of India).

That are also other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (involving debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

Tips to Stay Safe

1. If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1 800 829-1040. The IRS employees at that number can help you with a payment issue — if there really is such an issue.

2. If you receive an e-mail or phone call which sounds suspicious particularly if someone is telling you to pay an IRS debt via debit card or wire transfer, report the incident immediately to the IRS by forwarding the e-mail to or call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1 800 366-4484.

3. Do not reply to unsolicited e-mails. Do not open attachments. They may contain malicious code that will infect your computer. Do not click on links or provide personal information such as a Social Security number, passwords or credit card numbers.

4. If you don’t owe the IRS anything, any kind of demand for payment particularly from a rude, aggressive caller is a red flag indicating it’s a scam.

5. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, ask for a call back number and employee badge number. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call the individual back.


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