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Enforcement Bureau Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Federal Communications Commission Department of the Treasury
445 12th Street, SW 1401 H Street, NW, Suite 469
Washington, D.C. 20554 Washington, D.C. 20005
News Media Information (202) 418-0500 News Media Information (202) 622-6500
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov Internet: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/oi_office.shtml
Media Contact: Media Contact:
Will Wiquist, (202) 418-0509 Karen Kraushaar, (202) 622-6500
December 19, 2016
Enforcement Advisory No. 2016-07
FCC AND TIGTA WARN CONSUMERS OF IRS IMPERSONATION PHONE SCAM
Scam Has Cost Victims Tens of Millions of Dollars
Telephone fraudsters posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents have bilked tens of thousands of
American consumers out of millions of dollars. This scam, the largest impersonation scam in the history
of the IRS, has cost victims more than $50 million. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) are committed to quashing the scam,
prosecuting the individuals behind the scam, and protecting consumers from future fraud and harassment.
How the Scam Works
The scam starts with an automated or live call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent or employee of
the Treasury Department; the caller may use a common name and a fake IRS badge number. The caller
may know the victim’s Social Security number or other personally identifiable information. Often, the
telephone number displayed on the victim’s caller ID will show a Washington, D.C. number or even
appear as “IRS.” The caller will claim that the victim owes the IRS taxes, which must be paid
immediately or else the victim will be arrested or sued. The caller may also threaten the victim with
being charged for a criminal violation, a grand jury indictment, immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a
business or driver’s license.
The caller usually demands payment in the form of iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit or credit cards (e.g.,
Green Dot, MoneyPak, Reloadit), wire transfers, Western Union, or MoneyGram. With the victim on the
phone, the caller may direct the victim to different stores to purchase multiple cards, in order to
circumvent the limitation on how much the consumer may purchase at a single store. If the victim shows
hesitance to comply or attempts to talk to anyone else, the caller will use fear and intimidation tactics to
obtain the victim’s compliance. For example, the caller will claim that if the victim hangs up the
telephone, the IRS will immediately issue an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes. This threat may be
accompanied by a simultaneous call that shows up on the victim’s caller ID as “911.” Having succeeded
at getting the victim to purchase the gift or prepaid cards, the caller will then ask the victim to read off the
account number of the gift card or prepaid card, thereby defrauding the victim of thousands of dollars.
What Consumers Need to Know
Any call purportedly from the IRS demanding payment using gift cards, prepaid cards, or wire transfers is
fraudulent. The IRS generally first contacts people by mail—not by phone—about unpaid taxes and
never asks for payment in these forms or requests personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any
social media. Consumers should immediately hang up on these callers and file a complaint through
TIGTA’s IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Form. The consumer should also immediately report the
incident to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant, and to the FCC’s Consumer Help
Consumers should always be on alert for this scam and others. The following tips can help ward off
unwanted calls and scams:
? Do not engage with the callers. Just hang up!
? If you are unclear if a caller is legitimate, just hang up. You can then independently look up the
organization’s publicly listed phone number or legitimate website, and contact them through an
official number, web form or email address to see if they called you.
? If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls,
just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify—and then target—live respondents.
? If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC, TIGTA,
and other appropriate authorities so we can help identify and take appropriate action to help
consumers targeted by illegal callers.
? Ask your phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service that allows subscribers to
block unwanted calls. If not, encourage your provider to start offering a blocking service. You
can also visit the FCC’s website on “Web Resources for Blocking Robocalls” for information and
resources on available robocall blocking tools to help you reduce unwanted calls.
FCC and TIGTA Authority to Penalize Scammers
The FCC and TIGTA are working together to find these scammers, and anyone we find engaged in this
scam may be prosecuted and subject to civil penalties.
TIGTA is statutorily mandated to protect the integrity and operations of the IRS and does so, in part, by
investigating potential violations of criminal and civil law that adversely impact Federal tax
administration. Pursuant to Federal law, anyone who falsely impersonates an IRS employee may be
fined, or imprisoned for up to three years, or both. Additionally, anyone committing fraud over the
telephone may be fined, or imprisoned for up to 20 years, or both.
The FCC has authority to impose forfeitures under Section 501 and 502 of the Communications Act.
Anyone who willfully and knowingly violates the Communications Act and is convicted for such
violation may face a penalty of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to one year. Any person who
willfully and knowingly violates an FCC rule or regulation, may, upon conviction, be subject to a penalty
of up to $500 for each and every day during which a violation occurs. Additionally, any violation of the
Truth in Caller ID Act, prohibiting the knowing transmission of inaccurate caller identification with the
intent to defraud or harm, is subject to a civil forfeiture up to $10,000 for each violation.
Need More Information?
As the agency that implements and enforces the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the FCC reviews all
consumer complaints and will continue, when appropriate, to issue alerts based on those complaints and
other public information related to possible scams and frauds.
For further information regarding efforts to combat the IRS impersonation scam, contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-366-4484 at TIGTA or Kristi Thompson at (202) 418-1318 or
email@example.com or Daniel Stepanicich at (202) 418-7451 or firstname.lastname@example.org in the
FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.