TIGTA announced the arrest of five suspects for their involvement in an IRS scam that has collected an estimated $2 million from more than 1,500 victims.
Federal officials are accusing the five of making multiple calls while impersonating IRS agents or Treasury officials, telling victims they owed tax debts, and threatening arrests if payments weren’t sent immediately.
Victims were told to pay their tax debts through wire payments via MoneyGram, Walmart2Walmart and other money wiring services.
“These arrests indicate that TIGTA is making significant progress in our investigation of the IRS impersonation scam that continues to sweep the country, resulting in reported taxpayer losses of more than $36 million,” Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said.
TIGTA officials said two of the individuals were arrested because of information provided by a fraud investigator with the Aging Committee’s Hotline. The investigator followed up on an incident report filed by a victim in October 2015. The caller reported that her husband drove to a local Walmart store to wire $2,000 that the IRS agent demanded after threatening to arrest him.
The victim crashed his car while en route, but was so worried that he left the accident scene to wire the money, said Sen. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
The wire transfer was eventually traced to Minnesota and reported to TIGTA. TIGTA then sent agents to Minnesota, who pulled surveillance tapes and identified two suspects, which led them to the three additional suspects.
“No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that anyone make payments via MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart–2–Walmart, or any other money wiring method, for any debt to the IRS or the Department of the Treasury,” George said.
The office identified the five suspects as Jennifer Valerino Nunez, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Arnoldo Perez Mirabal, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, and Roberto Fontanella Caballero.
According to the TIGTA, the IRS impersonation scam has resulted in more than $36 million in taxpayer losses, averaging more than $5,700 in losses per taxpayer.
Here’s some tips to ensure you don’t fall for this common scam:
- Be wary if you are being asked to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The IRS will give you the chance to question or appeal what you owe.
- The IRS doesn’t call, text or email. The IRS won’t call about payment or overdue taxes without first contacting you by mail.
- Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card. Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. It’s like sending cash: once it’s gone, you can’t trace it. The IRS says it will never demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.
- Contact the IRS directly. If you owe taxes or you think you might call 800.829.1040 or go to irs.gov. IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there is an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes. Report the incident to the Department of the Treasury at 800-366-4484 or tigta.gov.