2016 > September > IRS Scam Targets International Students

IRS Scam Targets International Students

This article appeared in a September 2016 issue of the student newsletter.

By Nathan Woodham
North Lake News-Register Editor-in-Chief

“The IRS is not going to contact you by phone,” said Anna Sabeti, a North Lake College adjunct professor in the math and science department and recent victim of a series of phone scams.

Claiming they were from the Internal Revenue Service, the fraudulent caller told Sabeti that she had given them deceptive information and they were filing a lawsuit against her.

According to CNBC, there have been approximately 290,000 reported fraudulent contacts made since October 2013 involving 3,000 victims who collectively paid more than $14 million as a result of the scams.

“They have your first and last name,” said Sabeti. “To confirm you are the right person, they ask for your address, but they don’t actually know your address. That’s the first sign it’s a scam.”

The scammers give victims the option of accepting the nonexistent lawsuit or paying a certain amount of money while they are still on the phone, Sabeti said.

IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel promises the IRS will never ask for a credit card number over the phone, but according to Sabeti, the scammers never bothered asking for a credit card.

“They tell you they can’t accept credit card information,” she said. “And the only thing the courts are accepting are Apple iTunes gift cards. They tell you not to hang up or you will lose your chance and they are going to file the lawsuit against you, and they ask you to go to a CVS Pharmacy and buy an iTunes card.”

By asking for gift cards, scam artists prevent the possibility of being tracked through credit card history. They can also trick caller I.D. to make it look like it is coming from the IRS toll-free number. Diabolical methods like this make it difficult for law enforcement to catch them.

The IRS’s official website warns against the persuasive nature of the calls, stating, “Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. Scammers may also be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.”

As for Sabeti, she plans to share information about the scam with as many people as possible.

“I still have their number,” said Sabeti. “I’m actually planning to go through this conversation again, record it and put it online.”

The scam will target anyone but focuses on recent immigrants. International students should take the proper steps to protect themselves and understand that if they have an issue with the IRS concerning taxes, they will be contacted primarily via mail, not through a telephone call.

“Be aware of the day that they call you,” said Sabeti, “The IRS will never contact you on a Sunday. The best thing to do if you are getting a phone call from the IRS is to hang up the phone and call them directly.”

If you have been the victim of an attempted scam, you can report it by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484, or visit the official website at treasury.gov.