I had a frantic call from a client's daughter (Tanya) this morning, stating that she received a call from the IRS to inform her that they are suing her mother for fraud. My client is elderly and lives in an assisted living facility in the area. Her daughter lives out of the country. As Tanya relayed the details of the call to me, it seemed likely that this was a scam. After doing some quick research, I confirmed it, but the level of sophistication of some of these scammers is cause for alarm.
These scammers frequently prey on the vulnerabilities of elders, and this particular scam frequently seeks targets from other countries, sometimes benefitting from language difficulties or a fear of deportation. The scammers learn enough personal information through social media and internet resources to lure their victims further into the conversation ... then they use fear and intimidation to make their victims comply with their demands.
While it is difficult to understand how so many people fall prey to such scams, we need to realize that these scammers are very good at what they do. People from other countries frequently feel like "outsiders" on some level, and a call from the Internal Revenue Service stating that they are suing the person for fraud would be very frightening. When a quick solution is offered (an immediate wire transfer of, say $5,000, the victim is relieved that the lawsuit, arrest, deportation, etc., can be avoided. Your natural instinct may be to ask for the person's name and badge number, and some verification of their identity. Some victims have reported that they asked these same questions, but they were met with anger and more agressive demands by the scammers. While many people would realize that a real IRS agent would not behave in such a manner, the vulnerabilities of some of these victims prevents them from questioning authority - certainly not the IRS.
Following is an article regarding the most popular IRS scams. Please spread the word and remind your loved ones not to fall victim to such scams!