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Call Christina hotline flooded with reports of IRS imposters

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – IRS imposters are making their rounds again in South Florida and many Local 10 News viewers have alerted consumer advocate Christina Vazquez about the threatening voicemail messages.

One viewer tells the Call Christina team that the caller scared her 84-year-old grandmother by threatening to take her home and arrest her unless she came up with $10,000.

Another person who received the threatening call was Local 10 News anchor Kristi Krueger's mother.

"For two days in a row, we received a call that said the IRS has been trying to contact us and if we didn't respond to this number a lawsuit would be pending," Kathy Krueger said. "At first, I ran and started to write down the number and then I thought, 'Hey, wait a minute. I saw Christina's report and she said the IRS would never contact you in this way,' and so I threw the number away."

Well done Kathy! That is exactly right -- the IRS will never call you to demand money over the phone.

Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400 percent jump in tax scams.

The number to call if you have questions about a tax debt is: 1-800-829-1040.

ID THEFT – IMPOSTER CALLS – EMAIL SCAMS

The Call Christina team sat down with Kelly Jackson, special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Miami Field Office to give you an insider's look at the tactics con artists are using right now to steal your money.

"Miami seems to breed fraud," Jackson said. "Things seem to start here. There is a melting pot of people here (and) there's a melting pot of fraud. Other parts of the country are seeing what we saw here 2 to 3 years ago."

Related link: Beware of aggressive IRS impersonators' telephone scam

Examples include identity theft and the ever-annoying and often financially-devastating IRS imposter calls.

In Florida, Jackson said more than 270 people have been fleeced out of $1.5 million in the IRS phone scam, and those are believed to be conservative numbers.

"We are so used to being defrauded that we are not reporting it," Jackson said. "So I think the numbers for Florida are a little low in the big scheme of things, because I think we have gotten somewhat inoculated from being defrauded, which is sad."

Related link: Accused IRS imposter talks to Christina Vazquez

Nationally, it is believed the phone scams have ripped off $31 million from people.

Currently on the IRS' radar are email scams.

"We are going to start to hear more and more about that," Jackson said.

Related link: IRS issues alert about new phishing scam targeting HR professionals

"A lot of times those emails look really good. They look like they are from the IRS -- they are not," Jackson said. "We are not going to email you and ask you to confirm your social security number or your bank account information."

Related Link: Tax-related ID theft prevention tips

IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams:

"There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. "Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate."

Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:

-Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.

-Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligation.

-Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies. 

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of these scams include:

-Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

-Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.

-Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

-Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

-Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

-After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:

-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 line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.

-If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.

-You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose "Other" and then "Imposter Scams." If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

What to look for in email tax scams:

Taxpayers receive an official-looking email from what appears to be an official source, whether the IRS or someone in the tax industry.

The underlying messages frequently ask taxpayers to update important information by clicking on a web link. The links may be masked to appear to go to official pages, but they can go to a scam page designed to look like the official page. The IRS urges people not to click on these links but instead send the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Recent email examples the IRS has seen include subject lines and underlying text referencing:

-Numerous variations about people's tax refund.

-Update your filing details, which can include references to W-2.

-Confirm your personal information.

-Get my IP Pin.

-Get my E-file Pin.

-Order a transcript.

-Complete your tax return information.

Additional IRS resources

www.irs.gov/identitytheft