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IRS tax scam becoming widespread

A scam targeting tax payers continues to grow as we near the April 15 deadline for submitting taxes without penalty.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the Internal Revenue Service has received more than 20,000 reports of people contacted through this scam and more than $1 million have been taken from those victims.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said J. Russell George, who is in charge of the IRS watchdog group.

Thieves are calling victims and threatening them with arrest or deportation. They’re pressuring people to pay them immediately through prepaid credit cards to settle supposed back taxes.

Another tricky aspect to the scam, the caller ID information makes it appear like the phone call is actually coming from the IRS.

“The scams are much more sophisticated now,” said Tiffany Dodson, an area developer for Liberty Tax Service. “The emails look better, the phone calls look better.”

Some victims tell investigators thieves also threatened to take away their driver’s license or business license if they don’t comply immediately.

“They never just up and call you,” said Lisa McDuffie, a tax preparer for the last 15 years who works for Jackson Hewitt.

McDuffie said that one advantage of using a tax preparer is the security in knowing that you can turn to someone with questions about situations like back taxes.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said many times the scammers use common names and fake IRS badge numbers. The thieves also already know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number or the entire number.

The scam also features phony emails and follow up phone calls claiming to be police or Department of Motor Vehicles employees to emphasize the need to pay immediately.

The IRS encourages you to protect sensitive information, like your date of birth, to prevent being victimized.

If you have any questions about money you owe to the government for taxes call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

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