Listen to the ‘largest ever’ phone scam involving IRS impersonators


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Treasury officials have warned of a widespread and sophisticated phone scam involving callers who impersonate Internal Revenue Service representatives and demand immediate payments with pre-paid debit cards and wire transfers.

IRS inspector general Russell George described the ruse as the “largest ever” of its kind last month, noting that thousands of victims had already lost more than $1 million through the ploy.

Pindrop Security recorded one of the calls in which a scammer contacted a company representative who posed as a victim. The fraud-detection firm kindly allowed the Federal Eye to publish the conversation, which appeared on the company’s blog along with an analysis revealing a few new details about the plot.

Below is the full recording, followed by shorter excerpts showing that the caller used much of the scripted tricks the IRS and George’s office have warned about in recent months. Note: Pindrop distorted the victim’s voice to protect the individual’s identity.

 

In the clip below, the caller claims to represent the “Federal Investigation Department” and the IRS.  The IRS generally contacts taxpayers first by mail or with personal visits, according to the agency, so this call should immediately raise a flag.

 

The callers largely target immigrants and threaten them with deportation, but they have recently expanded their efforts to all taxpayers, according to federal officials. This excerpt supports that information, as the scammer asks where the victim was born but eventually continues the con after learning he is American.

 

Here, the caller claims the victim owes thousands of dollars in overdue taxes. Again, the IRS would have contacted the taxpayer first by mail or with a personal visit.

 

The scammer then threatens an arrest warrant. The IRS doesn’t have the authority to issue those.

 

The caller tells the victim he cannot use standard forms of payment, specifically a credit card. The IRS has no such policy, according to the agency.

 

The caller tries to justify why the money has to be wired to a Paypal account through a prepaid debit card.

 

As for the new details, Pindrop said in its analysis that the callers hide their location by using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services, which basically allow phone conversations to take place over the internet. The scammers use this to pretend they are calling locally or from an IRS’s assistance number: 1-800-829-1040.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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