The Treasury Department has arrested five people who they say were running a phone scam that involved them impersonating IRS agents and threatening to arrest victims for not paying imaginary back taxes.
The arrests are part of the federal government’s increased focus on phone fraud scams, especially those that involve criminals pretending to be IRS agents or other government officials. The scam that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration alleges these five suspects were running is a familiar one, in which they attempted to bully victims into sending them money by pretending to be IRS agents and warning the victims that they’re about to be arrested for non-payment of back taxes.
“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, averaging more than $5,700 in losses per taxpayer,” J. Russell George, the Inspector General, said. “The scammers are relentless and so are we. Our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”
The five suspects in this investigation are alleged to have committed fraud scams that added up to nearly $2 million in losses. The people arrested are Jennifer Valerino Nunez, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Arnoldo Perez Mirabal, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, and Roberto Fontanella Caballero, all of the Miami area, the TIGTA said.
Phone fraud scams take a number of forms, but the IRS tax scam is perhaps the most popular version. It owes its popularity to its effectiveness and simplicity. With some caller ID spoofing software and a good script, a scammer can set about calling potential victims and working them over, using the threat of imprisonment as a hammer to scare them into sending money. There are plenty of variations on the scam, including a newer version that threatens college students for not paying a “federal student tax”.
One of the telltale signs of this kind of scam is the caller asking the victim to send money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or other third-party service. That’s not something that the IRS asks taxpayers to do.
“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.
All of the suspects have been referred to the Office of the United States Attorney for prosecution.