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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: Internet:
TTY: 1-888-835-5322
Media Contact: Media Contact:
Will Wiquist, (202) 418-0509 Karen Kraushaar, (202) 622-6500
DA 16-1392
December 19, 2016
Enforcement Advisory No. 2016-07
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: or 1-800-366-4484 at TIGTA or Kristi Thompson at (202) 418-1318 or or Daniel Stepanicich at (202) 418-7451 or in the 
FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.