Odds are either you or someone you know has received an IRS scam phone call recently. Callers impersonating the IRS claim that the receiver of the call owes in back taxes, and demands immediate repayment. Many people fell victim to this scam, and approximately 15,000 people to date have been cheated out of a total of $300 million.
The U.S. government fought back this week. The Justice Department has indicted 56 people and five Indian companies in connection with these calls, charging them with wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes. A total of 20 people have been arrested in the United States, and the government is seeking extradition for the remaining individuals accused of these crimes who are in India.
According to the indictment, the call center operators "threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government." They gathered phone numbers and other information from social media and other online sources, and used fake numbers to make calls seem legitimate.
Prosecutors will seek monetary damages from the accused as well as criminal charges, but it is unlikely that victims will be able to recover their stolen money.
Despite the actions taken by the Department of Justice, the IRS encourages individuals to still remain alert regarding these types of calls. "Do not let your guard down. These people are persistent," said Russell George, inspector general of the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration. "I do expect these people are resilient and will not give up."
See our earlier blog post regarding how to protect yourself from IRS phone scams, or visit irs.gov for the latest information.