In face of IRS impersonators, vive la resistance!
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