Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Several of the most common scams that target older persons involve callers claiming to be from the IRS in order to cause confusion and concern in their victims and are “very effective” at it, the IG’s office of that agency recently told a Senate Aging Committee hearing.

An IG official said that an “impersonation” scam, while less prevalent than it was several years ago, still is in use. In that scam, a caller using a fake name and sometimes a fictitious IRS employee badge number claims to be an IRS or Department of the Treasury employee and may further use software to make it appear on the recipient’s caller ID that the call is coming from Washington, D.C. The caller further may recite the last four digits of the recipient’s Social Security number or other personal information–which probably was obtained illegally in some way–which adds further credence.


“The impersonator claims that the intended victim owes taxes to the IRS and that, if those taxes are not paid immediately, the victim will be arrested or sued. Other threats for non-payment include the loss of a driver’s or business license or deportation. The impersonators often leave “urgent” messages to return telephone calls and they often call the victim multiple times,” the IG official said. They ask for payments through wire transfers, money orders, debit cards or other cash value cards.

Investigators have targeted that scam and have made numerous arrests, with the result that such calls have dropped by about nine-tenths–although some people still are turning over money to the scammers–the IG said.

Another, called the “lottery” scam, involves calls stating that the intended victim has won a lottery or other contest; callers represent themselves to be an official or employee of the IRS and tell the victim that in order to receive the prize, they must first send money as payment for taxes on the winnings. Arrests also have been made of perpetrators of that scam.