[March 21, 2014]WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Thousands of
Americans nationwide have been targeted since August by a phone scam
in which fraudsters claim to be from the U.S. Internal Revenue
Service and demand money for unpaid taxes, said the IRS' watchdog on
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said
it has received more than 20,000 complaints from people, including
recent immigrants, about the scam.
Thousands of victims have collectively paid more than $1 million to
the scammers, TIGTA said.
"This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen," said
J. Russell George, the head of TIGTA in a statement.
The fraudsters can manipulate victim's phone's caller ID so it
displays the number of a local IRS office, TIGTA said.
In some cases, the fraudsters have also told victims parts of their
Social Security numbers.
In cases where victims hung up, fraudsters have called back
displaying a local police phone number on caller ID, TIGTA said.
Potential victims worried about their immigration status have been
threatened with deportation, TIGTA said.
The scam has occurred in almost every state and the fraudsters have
followed a uniform script, a senior TIGTA official said on a
conference call with reporters.
The technology needed to manipulate caller ID displays is easily
available to the public, the official said.
Major phone companies have been warned about the scam, as well as
companies that provide voice-over-the-Internet call services, the
Claudia Hill, a licensed tax preparer in Cupertino, California, said
that in one week last month, four of her clients complained of such
scam calls. Before this year, none of her clients had previously
mentioned phone scams, said Hill, who said she prepares about 1,000
tax returns a year.
"The IRS is not proactive enough in getting out in front of any of
this mess," she said.
(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and