Pay your taxes or face deportation; ‘it’s not really the IRS calling’

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

 Recent immigrants seem to be targeted by a advanced phone scam that frightens them with arrest and deportation.

Victims are told they owe Internal Revenue Service for taxes that must be paid immediately or they will be arrested, deported, or stripped of driving privileges. If they do not cooperate, the caller threatens them – sometimes violently – with insults.

Better Business Bureau says cases in California, Missouri and New Jersey totalling losses of $20,000 have been reported. In all three cases, fake IRS agents seem to target ESL-residents, telling them they owe back taxes and intimidating them into loading money on to Green Dot MoneyPak cards.

BBB serving the Snake River Region began receiving inquiries from residents on Wednesday. But Thursday afternoon, IRS officials confirmed this was a scam.

“Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

A woman in St. Louis, Mo., who sent nearly $11,000 to  the thieves says she was under the caller’s control because of the fear of being deported.  “I was very scared; he was controlling everything,” said the St. Louis County woman. She said the thieves instructed her to withdraw more than $12,000 from the couple’s bank accounts and then load $10,890 of that on Green Dot cards. She said she purchased the cards from several retail stores in her neighborhood over a period of several hours.

At one point, he told her he was setting up a three-way call with an Indian immigration official. The woman said that person demanded still more money to pay off what he described as an overdue “alien tax.”  If she did not pay the money, her family would be deported,” he told her.

The victims then relayed the cards’ access codes to the thieves, allowing them to strip the cash from the accounts.

BBB offers the following tips to anyone contacted by a stranger demanding money:

  • If the caller claims to represent law enforcement or a government agency, get the person’s name and affiliation and tell them you will call back.  Look up the phone number for the agency and use that number to contact authorities.  The agency will be able to tell you if the call is legitimate.
  • Do not give a caller any personal information, including banking or Social Security numbers.
  • If the call is from a debt collector, ask the caller to give proof of the debt by mail. If the caller refuses, hang up.
  • Never transfer money to a stranger by wire transfers such as Western Union or MoneyGram or by using preloaded money cards such as Green Dot MoneyPaks. Such payments can be almost impossible to trace.
  • If a caller threatens you in any way, contact police.
  • If you are unsure about whether a call is legitimate, contact BBB, police or your attorney general’s office.
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3 Comments

Filed under News You Can Trust, Scam alert

3 responses to “Pay your taxes or face deportation; ‘it’s not really the IRS calling’

  1. Mark Burrows

    Landed immigrants have been targets of scam abuse for decades, this is not news. Now at one time, it was the other was around, we were invaded by a heavy flow of gypsies. I am dead serious, real genuine gypsies, nomadic people of various countries of Europe who traveled about in caravans going from town to town as tinkers repairing things that needed fixing and sharpening blades, they also put on shows of music, slight of hand, dancing and told fortunes, as the crowds gathered, unnoticed members of the caravan slipped into darkened homes and helped themselves to all kinds of things that would not be noticed missing for awhile. So, when discovered, there would be no clear time as to when the item went missing. This things were sold off in shops in larger towns or cities. It was not how much they got for an item, it was the volume they collected and they sold to a variety of places. They were also notorious at rigging games of chance. Gypsies are extremely well mannered, polite and still carry a sense of romantic mystery about them.
    When they started to migrate to North America in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s they adapted to modern convenience and moved about in motor homes, and were extremely fond of the Airstream manufacture. So, one of their first goals was to acquire a fleet of these trailers and travel vehicles. They did it by scheming and conning. They had long given up on the entertainment aspect, but still went in to bars to do their magic, their women would tantalize the local men, and lift them of their cash, as the men would work the room joining conversations and telling stories earning drinks while pocket were being picked. They still were the master of breaking in and entering and still stuck to the rule of looking for less obvious items.
    Anyway, back to current landed immigrants, yes they have plenty of scam artists targeting them because they are not accustom yet to laws and rules of the land and how they go about doing things.
    Now, if you notice I said landed immigrant, because illegal immigrants are whole different story. They already understand they are in the country illegally and if caught will likely be deported, or they should be. For some strange reason, the federal government has seen fit to be somewhat lenient in this, which is under much debate. I will only say my opinion, if you go to another country, you should do it properly, apply for a visitor, a working visa. Apply for application for citizenship. If you are seeking refuge for the protection of your life of the life of your family, make that appeal first. Don’t make it after the fact. I am so skeptical of people who get found living here illegally for years, their children are all born here so that makes them citizens. Still, when told of their situation, they start crying about how they were threatened to be killed by their government, and this was the only way out. You know the media will pick that up and start in about the children and their rights as citizens and how cruel it would be to deport their parents.
    I can not accept that anyone in such danger would not appeal that the moment the hit the soil. If the country turned deaf ears at the first appeal, I then would feel the country has lost it’s soul and the bronze plaque at the Statue of Liberty with the sonnet The New Colossus should be removed as it became the spirit of immigration of the United States of America that had ideals of accepting people escaping tyranny, religious oppression, as well travelers and adventurers.
    If this spirit is lost, then they might as well strike down Lady Liberty herself and sell off the copper to pay for the concrete wall they would need to build around the country.
    This is what I feel about immigration. Do it right, do it properly, and do it with dignity. If so, then you don’t have to take crap from anyone, because they are not on this continent by magic unless they are one of the indigenous nations that their ancestors didn’t kill off by accident with disease or simply by slaughter. Their ancestors were also immigrants. Of course, people can choose not to have any pride their your family roots, that would easily explain all the racism and bigotry. The things they were also suppose to leave behind when they immigrated. Yet that is a whole different quagmire.
    Landed immigrants deserve respect, and they deserve the same protection against criminals as born citizens.

    Mark Burrows

  2. Terri

    Very helpful article. Read about this scam from the complaints posted at Callercenter.com too, that included the scammer’s phone number. Although the phone numbers were of different area codes, a lot had a 202 area code. I wonder if these people are part of a large group and headquartered in DC.

    • Mark Burrows

      Phone bouncing or forwarding through various means and any incoming number that was not blocked by the sender, does not mean it is where the call was generated from, it is just the last phone local it was forwarded to. If a lot of them were seemingly from DC, then that is only to throw suspicion that this is a plot that might be generated politically.
      Trust me, it is not for the simple reason it would not follow any reasonable logic. Government would not permit landed immigrants into the country only to fleece them with illegal scams, they are more interested in having them boost the economy, and pay taxes.
      Also the most obvious is being overlooked. In spite of what the immigrant fears, the Department of Immigration would not phone people and make such unrealistic threats. There is no logic, even if a landed immigrant believed the call and was in fear, they would vanish into the vastness of the protection of their own cultural society within the country. There is not a single ethnic group in North America that does not have such a society and each has it’s own underground to hide people until they can have things cleared by their embassy.
      My point being, the Department of Immigration is fully aware of this, and if there is a genuine and valid reason to deport anyone, they will just show up on their doorstep with all the proper warrants and documents in hand. Calls are allowed for representation from their embassy, unless they fear retributions from their own country then they must make an appeal, which should have been done upon entry into the country.
      It is the same with the IRS, they will send letters by means of post only, never emails or phone calls. They start with regular post, and if you keep ignoring them they use registered mail. If you refuse to sign, then they send agents. If you are an immigrant, they will contact the Department of Immigration to assess your status and determine if you require a translator.
      Blame Hollywood, they show too many situations of all kinds of agents busting down doors with flack jackets, and all assortments of assault weapons screaming and yelling out orders. That might be enough to convince anyone to cooperate with a phone call.
      The other obvious thing overlooked, is that in reality you would have to severely backed up in your taxes owing a large amount to even show as a blip on the IRS radar. They just do not have the man power, resources, and funding to chase down small potatoes. The economy causes everyone to cut back and force them to work only high priority situations. I also caution you against thinking that if your tax payment is not so high you should not pay it, they still have enough desk staff to watch for patterns of consistent and non-consistent tax payers, and they just might make you a sacrificial lamb as a statement that no one should avoid paying their taxes.

      Mark Burrows.

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