Scammers have always targeted seniors, but lately there has been a huge spike in scam calls to seniors in Rhode Island. The latest scam involves callers posing as the IRS, threatening that the call recipient will be arrested, sued, or have their utilities shut off over nonpayment of taxes — and demanding immediate payment over the phone.
The IRS scam is a serious problem. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports that is has “received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and … over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.”
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office explains what you should know about legitimate communications from the IRS:
- The IRS generally first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes.
- The IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order, or wire transfer.
- The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.
IRS impersonators may be quite sophisticated. For example, they:
- can make the caller ID appear as if it’s the IRS or other official agency calling
- may know the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number
- may send follow-up emails to support their scam
- may have (fake) IRS badge numbers
Whether it’s a call that raises red flags for the IRS scam or any other scam (unfortunately, there are currently many common scams in Rhode Island), hang up immediately. Then report the scam to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 401-274-4400 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you think you may have already been the victim of the IRS impersonation scam, you’re urged to report the scam to the TIGTA. This information helps them with their efforts to stop these crimes from happening.