U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has pushed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the source of a specific phishing scam that appears to be increasingly targeting New Yorkers, while continuing to plague people across the country. On the calls, individuals posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents claim that the person owes thousands of dollars to the IRS. Scammers threaten that if an amount is not paid right away the person on the other end of the call could soon be arrested or forced to appear in court, a tactic that seniors are often especially vulnerable to.
Schumer said, though the FBI is aware of this scam, they may need to redouble their efforts in New York given the recent uptick in attempts to swindle New Yorkers. Just last week, New York State law enforcement and other officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, warned of a “disturbing surge” in this specific IRS impersonation phishing scam. Schumer says there could be a new and coordinated focus to target New Yorkers and that is why the FBI should move fast to identify the source of the nefarious calling scam, shut down the operation and hold accountable the perpetrators. Schumer is urging the FBI to act immediately on behalf of New Yorkers and cited calls to his own office, which have also increased.
Schumer also called on money transfer companies, such as MoneyGram and Western Union and others, to better protect consumers by issuing a specific warning about this scam. The number of IRS impersonation scams have increased dramatically in recent years, and now it appears that New Yorkers are an increasing target. Schumer noted that thousands of Americans, including many in New York, have fallen victim to this crime which has cost the public nearly $30 million in hard-earned dollars. Schumer says that the feds must do everything in their power to eliminate this scam, which is the largest impersonation scam of its kind in U.S. history, according to Treasury Department investigators.
“There is no doubt about it, this IRS impersonation phishing scam is spreading like wild fire and burning an increasing number of vulnerable New Yorkers, especially our seniors,” said Schumer. “That is why I am asking the FBI to ramp up their efforts to identify the source of this fraud and to lower the legal hammer on the scammers. The scammers who perpetrate this hoax lie to vulnerable people, browbeat and intimidate them, dupe them into wiring them money and steal their hard-earned savings. They need to be rooted out and thrown behind bars. And the money transfer companies – that are being used by the bad guys to steal this money – should work with the FBI to better educate their customers about scams like this, and give them better ways to report it and avoid it.”
This IRS impersonation scam has been targeting people across the country, including many in New York City. According to the IRS, thieves posing as IRS agents have been conning victims out of their own money. The scammers demand that the victim pay a phony bill worth thousands of dollars. Then the scammers threaten their victims by saying that if the money is not paid back immediately they will be arrested, have to show up in court, or be deported. The scammers urge their victims to send the money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Often times, the scammers leave urgent callback requests on answering machines. The calls always come from U.S. area codes, often times from the Washington D.C. area. However, the calls likely come from overseas and the phone number is changed using spoofing.
As of October, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) received approximately 736,000 scam reports since October 2013. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid nearly $30 million dollars as a result of the scam. The Consumers Union has estimated that $350 million is lost by Americans to phone scams each year.
Schumer’s office has received an increased number of calls from constituents who have received threatening phone calls from the IRS scammers.
The following is a transcript of a real message left to one of Schumer’s constituents:
Hi. This message is intended to contact you. My name is Dennis Kwaid and I’m calling regarding an enforcement action executed by the U.S. Treasury and requires serious attention. Ignoring this will mean an intentional attempt to avoid judicial appearance before a magistrate judge or a grand jury or a federal or criminal offense. My number is 805-823-0402. I’d like you to cooperate with us and help us help you.
Schumer further noted that although these IRS scammers will call asking for money, it is not current IRS policy to demand immediate payment of funds. Instead, the IRS will notify consumers via U.S. mail. The IRS will also never require that you pay your taxes in a certain way nor will they ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone. If someone receives a similar threat, the IRS is urging people to hang up immediately and call TIGTA at 800-366-4484 to report the threat.