In face of IRS im­per­son­ators, vive la re­sis­tance!

The Daily Herald - - HERALD BUSINESS JOURNAL -

One of my fa­vorite lines from “Star Trek” is a chill­ing ut­ter­ance by the Borg, a preda­tor that ruth­lessly con­quers other species.

In one episode, the Borg col­lec­tive says the fol­low­ing to Capt. Jean-Luc Pi­card: “Strength is ir­rel­e­vant. Re­sis­tance is fu­tile.”

That last sen­tence al­ways sends chills down my spine. And when it comes to one of the nas­ti­est cons out there — IRS-im­per­son­at­ing scams — it might feel like there’s no use fight­ing back. Like the Borg, the con artists are scary, nu­mer­ous and hard to de­feat.

“The num­ber of com­plaints we have re­ceived about this scam con­tinue to climb, ce­ment­ing its sta­tus as the largest, most per­va­sive im­per­son­ation scam in the his­tory of our agency,” ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony de­liv­ered dur­ing con­gres­sional hear­ings by top of­fi­cials from the of­fice of the Trea­sury in­spec­tor gen­eral for tax ad­min­is­tra­tion (TIGTA).

With this type of fraud so wide­spread, one reader asked: “Is there a valid rea­son to bother re­port­ing the scam? I fully ex­pect to get more calls. I don’t want to waste my time with an agency if no ac­tion is pos­si­ble.”

Your re­port­ing does help au­thor­i­ties. In fact, your as­sis­tance is part of a two-pronged “ad­vise and dis­rupt strat­egy” to com­bat IRS im­per­son­ators, ac­cord­ing to Ti­mothy Ca­mus, TIGTA’s deputy in­spec­tor gen­eral for in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

If some­one calls claim­ing to be from the IRS de­mand­ing money for a tax bill, re­port it by go­ing to www.trea­sury.gov/tigta. There is an on­line form. Or you can call the com­plaint hot­line at 1-800-366-4484.

Re­port­ing that you were a vic­tim or that you re­ceived a call helps in some key ways, ac­cord­ing to Ca­mus.

Pro­vid­ing the call­back num­ber can lead to ar­rests: Since caller ID num­bers can be spoofed, the tele­phone num­ber that peo­ple are told to call back helps in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Af­ter all, this is where the bad guys are sit­ting wait­ing to en­snare vic­tims. So, please, re­port the call-back num­ber.

It builds an ev­i­den­tiary trail: De­tails mat­ter in pros­e­cu­tions. So write down what you’re be­ing told. Your notes of what was said as­sist au­thor­i­ties when they do catch the crim­i­nals.

Tele­phone num­bers are shut down: Ca­mus said the agency works with the own­ers of the num­bers to dis­able them. The agency has shut down nearly 800 tele­phone num­bers, rep­re­sent­ing 79 per­cent of the num­bers re­ported to the agency, a spokesper­son said.

Scam at­tempts are cat­a­logued: The agency col­lects the num­bers used in try­ing to trick peo­ple. TIGTA is also work­ing with other agen­cies — the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion and Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion — to com­bat this is­sue.

So when you see a sus­pi­cious num­ber on your caller ID, search for it on­line us­ing any search en­gine, and you might see that it’s been tagged as part of a scam alert.

TIGTA uses an au­to­mated di­aler to make calls to re­ported tele­phone num­bers. In a taped mes­sage, the scam­mers are told they are in vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral law and are ad­vised to stop their fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity. So far, TIGTA has made more than 100,500 calls back to scam­mers. (c) 2016, Wash­ing­ton

Post Writ­ers Group

MICHELLE SINGLETARY

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