Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonation scams have been hurting U.S. taxpayers for years, and now, government officials are announcing that 20 people in the U.S. have been arrested and two more people have been brought into custody over IRS scams.
According to a report covering the developments, nine warrants have also been executed across eight states as part of a far-reaching investigation of IRS scams. But it doesn’t stop there. The U.S. is also seeking extradition of individuals from India since the IRS scam calls were made in India.
In an unsealed indictment, the U.S. Department of Justice said the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false impersonation of an officer of the U.S., wire fraud and money laundering. One defendant is charged separately with passport fraud. The DOJ, according to the report, said: “This is the largest single domestic law enforcement action to date involving this scam.”
The report noted that, based on the indictment, the defendants were involved in a complex scheme organized by people in India and a network of call centers in the Indian city of Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is the sixth-largest city in India with a population of 6.5 million (larger than any city in the United States, except for New York City, and more than twice the size of Chicago).
In February, Western Union warned U.S. consumers of a new, nationwide IRS impersonation scam occurring this tax season. The scam involves callers who claim to work for the IRS — including a fake caller ID that backs up its claim — and who even provide an IRS ID badge number and a fake name.
The fake IRS representatives tell the victims they owe money to the IRS and ask them to pay using a preloaded debit card or money transfer company. And if the person refuses to cooperate? The scammer is said to then get aggressive, threatening that their driver’s license or passport could be suspended.
“Awareness and education are the best tools we have in the joint fight against fraud,” said Dan Marostica, VP of consumer protection compliance for Western Union. “Scammers try to use good people and financial services companies to steal money. Knowing what to look for is key in identifying warning signs of a scam and then avoiding it.”