WASHINGTON, March 20 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 Thursday.
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 official said.
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 Cynthia Osterman)