As tax filing deadline approaches, IRS scam ramps up

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With the federal and state tax filing deadline in a couple of weeks, consumer calls into the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office report a significant up-tick in the frequency and aggressiveness of IRS scam phone calls. Consumers report receiving multiple phone calls per day, with most calls threatening immediate arrest for failure to make a payment for allegedly owed taxes. 

“I think most, if not all, Rhode Islanders know this is a scam, but with these increasingly aggressive scare tactics, especially as we get closer to the filing deadline, I am concerned that vulnerable groups – including new taxpayers and older residents – will feel pressured into paying these scammers,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “I implore everyone with older parents, children, relatives, and neighbors to have a conversation on how to spot this scam and what to do when these phone calls are received.”

Since the IRS scam first became prevalent in Rhode Island and nationwide in 2012, the technology the scammers use to appear they are calling from the IRS has become more sophisticated, allowing the scammers to call individuals multiple times a day with the same ruse and giving scammers more personal details, thus giving the appearance of legitimacy.

“With all the personal identifying information available on the Internet and the dark web, we cannot possibly expect to insulate ourselves from receiving these scam calls,” added Attorney General Kilmartin. “But, we can arm ourselves with the knowledge of how to spot the scam so we don’t fall victim to their treachery.”

More and more often, the scammers will leave a voicemail indicating they are from the IRS calling about a problem with your tax return and request the consumer call them back immediately. First and foremost, never return the phone call with either the phone number that appears on the caller ID or the phone number left in the voicemail.

“If someone calls claiming to be from the IRS, simply hang up. If you receive a voicemail from someone claiming to be from the IRS, do not call them back. If they threaten arrest, hang up and report the phone call to a trusted relative or police,” said Kilmartin.

Here’s what to do after you hang up the phone:

Report the scam to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 274-4400 or emailing us at consumers@riag.ri.gov. Alerting us when the scam is in the area will help us warn others.

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the subject line in your complaint.

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