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BBB Alert: IRS Phone Scam Returns to Region

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, BBB is alerting Western Virginia residents that the IRS phone scam has grown in popularity once again.

Since the hurricane moved through the region, reports to both the BBB Serving Western Virginia office and to BBB’s Scam Tracker regarding the IRS scam have multiplied. The area’s BBB office has received dozens of phone calls in the past days reporting the fraudulent calls. Reports have also increased in North Carolina following Florence’s torrential rains in that area.

According to consumers, IRS impersonators are calling residents, saying that warrants or liens are owed and demanding that they pay taxes they don’t actually owe. Should the consumer refuse, the next step is usually the threat of immediate arrest, although some other versions of the scam have been reported.

The fake IRS agents have been known to use a computer program to make the real IRS phone number appear on caller ID, quote false badge numbers, and use call centers that use background noise to seem legitimate. These scammers may also have the last four digits of a person’s Social Security number among other personal information.

Follow these tips in order to protect yourself from this IRS scam and others like it:

  • Beware of any caller claiming to be from the IRS and demanding money. The IRS will never ask for payments by wire transfer or a prepaid card and will almost always alert taxpayers of unpaid taxes via the mail, not a phone call.
  • Never give anyone money or credit card information over the phone.
  • Pre-paid debit cards, wire transfers, and money orders are no different than sending cash. Anyone who demands these forms of payment should be approached with caution and suspicion. Never use these forms of payment unless you know the receiving party and recognize the risks.
  • Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to bully their targets into doing what they want. This is a tactic many scammers use.
  • Be skeptical of what a caller claims he or she can do if you refuse to meet their demand. An IRS agent will not get the police or an immigration agency involved just because you owe taxes.
  • Be alert to other scam phone calls that may come your way, including utility scams. Several reports of a common Appalachian Power scam have also come into the BBB. Verify all phone numbers independently, not just on your caller ID.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you can report it to our Scam Tracker at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us

If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.

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