Washington, D.C. — Recent arrests in the U.S. and India should put a big dent in the one of the biggest scams affecting pre-retirees and retirees – the IRS scam.
The U.S. Treasury Department says nearly two million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials, with 12,000 to 13,000 people submitting complaints every week.
These scam calls most often involve a disguised caller ID number to make the victims believe that the call is coming from the IRS in Washington, D.C. or a local law enforcement agency. When the victims see the “Internal Revenue Service” or the name of the local police department appear on their caller IDs, they are often willing to follow the supposed government official’s instructions to resolve the alleged tax issue.
But first, what’s happened in the past few weeks.
In late October, federal authorities said they arrested nearly two dozen people across the United States and charged more people in India on charges related to the IRS scam that used fear and intimidation to deceive victims.
The Justice Department said charges were filed against 61 people and said the call center scheme had scammed at least 15,000 victims out of more than $250 million. Authorities said it was the largest single domestic law enforcement action yet in this scam. The department said authorities would seek to recover the money that was stolen, but that doing so might be difficult, and that it is possible that victims would not be repaid.
Earlier in October, police in Mumbai, India arrested 70 people after uncovering a massive scam to cheat thousands of Americans, many of them pre-retirees and retirees, out of millions of dollars. People working at the fake call center posed as U.S. tax authorities and demanded payment for unpaid taxes. The callers threaten jail if payment was not made immediately, and victims paid thousands of dollars to settled their cases.
Since 2013, more than two million people reported getting solicitations and about 10,000 of them ended up paying some amount of money to the scammers, says J. Russell George, Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration.
But authorities warn, these scam artists are resilient. And there are many others aimed primarily at pre-retirees and retirees. The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015 says older Americans lose $36.5 billion each year to financial abuse – more than 12 times what was previously reported.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has published a free pamphlet outlining the top 10 scams directing against older Americans: Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors. The IRS scam was at the top of the list receiving complaints. But the Committee says here are some of the other top scams to watch out for:
• The grandparent scam. That is a perennial one. In this case, the target will get an email or phone call that appears to be from a grandchild. It says the grandchild is overseas and has been robbed and lost all their money, airplane ticket home and passport. It is usually a sob story that sounds authentic.
• The technical support scam. The target receives a call from someone pretending to be from a big company like Microsoft or Dell. They say that their computer has been infected with a virus, and they need certain information to fix it. They then trick the target into giving them codes that give them access to their computer. Then they will either say they fixed the problem and demand payment, or they will plant a virus so they can gain access to their financial accounts.
• Sweepstakes scams, such as the Jamaican lottery scam. That placed second on the Aging Committee’s list. Scammers generally contact victims by phone or through the mail to tell them that they have won or have been entered to win a prize. Scammers then require the victims to pay a fee to either collect their supposed winnings or improve their odds of winning the prize.
Tips from the committee to avoid being manipulated by scammers:
• Con artists force you to make decisions fast and may threaten you.
• Con artists disguise their real numbers, using fake caller-IDs.
• Con artists sometimes pretend to be the government (e.g. IRS).
• Con artists pressure you not to call friends or family.
• Con artists try to get you to provide them personal information like your Social Security number, or account numbers.
• Before giving out your credit card number or money, please ask a friend or family member about it!
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, has also established a toll-free fraud hotline. That number is 1-855-303-9470.
United States. US Senate. Special Commitee on Aging. FIghting Fraud: US Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors. By Senator Susan M. Collins R-ME and Senator Claire McCaskill D-MO. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Orlov, Laurie, and True Link Data Science Team. The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse. Rep. San Fransisco: True Link, 2015. Print.
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