IRS phone scams target Rutgers students
A phone-based IRS scam has taken more than $5 million from its targets, some of whom are Rutgers students.
The scam, which primarily targets college students, involves IRS impersonators leaving voicemails and phone calls requesting money in back taxes, social security numbers and wire transfers through Western Union, said Chelsea Berger, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
The tone of the calls are highly dictatorial and authoritative, including the threat of criminal charges if the money is not paid immediately, she said.
“The voicemail said that because I owe money in back taxes, the cops were going to come to my house and arrest me if I didn't call back. It also said I need to hire a lawyer,” she said.
When asked about the scams, the Office of Financial Aid at Rutgers said they were unaware of such incidents.
“They wanted me to use Western Union to send them money and said I had 30 minutes or detectives were going to show up at my house,” said Michael DiBlasio, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
IRS scammers also called the home of Sara Sayed, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, several times within the last few years. They asked her dad to go to 7/11 and buy gift cards to send to them and threatened that if he did not, he would be arrested for tax fraud, Sayed said.
“I called the police department to report what just happened and the minute an officer picked up the phone, he immediately said, ‘Let me guess, you got a call from the IRS?’ He told me it was all a scam and that they were calling from some foreign country,” said Tatiana Helena Soldan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.
The calls often shift from authoritative to aggressive when recipients question their validity. When asked to speak to a supervisor, Berger said the impersonator poorly attempted to alter his voice and pretend he was the supervisor.
“I said, ‘No, this is the same person,’ and the guy proceeded to call me stupid. We argued for about two minutes back and forth until I hung up,” she said.
With further research, Berger found the practice of degradation to be common in these types of scams.
Solden said the woman who contacted her spoke only limited English. When she asked where the scammer was calling from, the woman said Washington. She then proceeded to call Solden stupid for ignoring her, before hanging up the phone.
According to their website, the actual IRS would not demand immediate payment, especially through prepaid cards or a wire transfer, nor would they threaten to involve the local police if the money is not provided immediately. The IRS would also not ask for debit, credit card or social security information over the phone.
The IRS advises the targets of these scams to hang up immediately and to search the telephone number used to make the call. Some of the numbers are shared online once they’ve been used to target other students, according to the website.
“I googled the number and apparently they have scared so many other people, so my dad decided to scare them by telling them he’s actually a cop,” Sayed said. “ A few days ago, a different number called my dad and immediately asked for his social. My dad googled the number and my dad was not the first victim.”
In their warning, the IRS asks that victims or call recipients contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” webpage or to report it to the Federal Trade Commission and specify that the incident was an “IRS Telephone Scam.”
These scams tend to prey on the deep financial insecurities college students experience today, CBS reported. College students are younger, more naive and more easily spooked by formidable government organizations.
“So lesson learned, always google the number,” Sayed said.
Brielle Diskin is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.