The Internal Revenue Service said it has received reports from a number of people in the Chattanooga area who have gotten calls from scammers pretending to be with the IRS.
The IRS is warning Chattanoogans that this pervasive phone scam has targeted people across the nation. Treasury officials have called it the largest scam of its kind.
The scammers often know personal information about their targeted victims and usually tell victims they owe thousands of dollars in taxes. They demand immediate payment and often instruct the victims to load money onto prepaid debit cards and call them back with the card numbers. The scammers then transfer the money off the cards.
If potential victims are uncooperative, the scammers may threaten to have them arrested by local law enforcement. If the victim hangs up, the scammers may call back repeatedly and often "spoof" the caller ID to make it appear that the IRS or local police are calling. The scammers usually have foreign accents.
"The IRS does not usually call unexpectedly about taxes due and will never demand payment using a prepaid debit card," said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. "The IRS also does not threaten people with being arrested by local law enforcement agencies."
Boone suggested that the best way to avoid being a victim of this and other phone scams is to play it safe.
"Tell the caller you're uncomfortable doing business by phone and ask them to send you something in writing," he said. "A legitimate caller will agree to do that."
People who have been contacted or victimized by IRS impersonators are asked to report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or at www.treasury.gov/tigta.