UPDATED: Residents Target of Phony IRS Scam

(File photograph.)

Haverhill residents are among those being targeted by telephone scammers pretending to work for the Internal Revenue Service.

Michael R. LaBonte of Haverhill said he received one of the phony IRS calls Monday morning. The caller claimed the IRS had filed a lawsuit.

LaBonte was not fooled. The Better Business Bureau, however, reports “thousands of calls have been made to individuals across the country with total losses around $1 million dollars.” The bureau said voicemail messages state residents must contact the IRS immediately or face legal consequences. Other messages threatened arrest by U.S. marshals for failure to pay the correct amount of taxes.

“In these types of situations, it’s important for consumers to not give out any personal information over the phone or through email,” said Paula Fleming, spokesperson for the local BBB. “The IRS will not call taxpayers directly, but rather send notifications through U.S. Mail.”

The message LaBonte received also contains an implicit threat.

In addition to claiming to be from the IRS, other individuals say they have been called by people stating they were with the U.S. Treasury. Although it is a different government agency, the scam remains the same. These IRS and tax-related phone scams are being reported to BBBs nationwide.

BBB recommends the following tips if you receive one of these scam phone calls:

Hang Up – Don’t provide any information over the phone. Call the IRS directly using the phone number found on their legitimate website.

Protect Personal Information – In response to an incoming call, never give out any personal or financial information such as your Social Security number, financial information or any passwords and other identifying information.

IRS Contacts via U.S. Mail – If a caller claiming to be an IRS agent notifies you of an outstanding tax debt, but you haven’t received official notification from the IRS through the United States Postal Service, it is most likely a scam. The IRS always starts by sending taxpayers written notification of any tax due via U.S. Mail.

Look Out for Spoofing – Part of scammers’ sophisticated tactics include ‘spoofing,’ which happens when the caller masks their own number and causes the number of a well-known service, like the IRS, to appear on caller ID.

Contact the FTC – File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. From the complaint homepage, select “Other” and then “Imposter Scams”. In the notes, include “IRS Telephone Scam.”

If you or someone you know receives a threatening phone call claiming to be with the US government, report it to your BBB by calling (508) 652-4800 or email [email protected]. For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/boston.