COLUMBUS - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine this week warned Ohioans to beware of threatening calls purportedly "from the IRS" as the April 15 tax-filing deadline approaches.
In the past week alone, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has received more than 100 reports of IRS-related scams from consumers across the state.
"Many of these scams originate out of the state or out of the country, so we want to warn consumers about these calls," DeWine said. "The real IRS is not going to call you unexpectedly and threaten to throw you in jail if you don't pay immediately. If you receive one of these calls, don't respond and don't make any payments."
In a typical IRS imposter scam, a con artist calls a consumer claiming to represent the IRS. The caller says the consumer owes money for back taxes or is under investigation for tax fraud. The consumer is told to call a specific phone number immediately in order to avoid arrest or legal charges. Eventually the consumer is asked to send money using a prepaid card or wire transfer to correct the issue. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.
According to recent reports of this scam, consumers often receive a call from one out-of-state phone number and are told to call a different out-of-state number, such as one with a 202 (Washington, D.C.) area code, a 360 (Washington state) area code, or a 347 (New York) area code.
Consumers should be aware that the phone number that appears on their caller ID may be "spoofed," meaning a scam artist has altered the number displayed on the caller ID in order to hide the true origin of the call.
To protect themselves, consumers should look for signs of an IRS imposter scam, including:
- Unexpected calls from the "IRS" about tax problems.
- Calls from unrecognizable phone numbers.
- Callers who demand an immediate response.
- Threats of jail time or arrest.
- Demands for payment via a prepaid card or wire transfer.
In addition to the IRS imposter scam, consumers also should look for signs of tax-related identity theft. Generally this occurs when an imposter uses a consumer's personal information to file a tax return in the consumer's name in order to obtain the consumer's refund.
Consumers who find signs of tax-related identity theft should work with the IRS and/or the Ohio Department of Taxation to report and correct the problem. They also should look for other types of identity theft, such as fraudulently opened credit card accounts, which should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
To report a potential scam or unfair business practice, consumers should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.