The IRS phone scam continues to plague people living in the Puget Sound region, with KING 5 hearing reports from scores of viewers.

Callers claiming to be from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury Department tell victims they owe money to the government and that it must be paid immediately through a credit card, pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Those who refuse are told they will be arrested, deported or have their business license or driver's license suspended.

Some victims report that the caller informs them that the police are on their way to the victim's home to make the arrest.

The caller tends to use hostility or insults to sway the potential victim. The scammer may even be able to recite the last four digits of the victim's Social Security number.

Accomplices may then call back later claiming to be from the local police or the department of licensing, all in an effort to convince victims that the first call was legitimate.

Some viewers who contacted KING 5 said the scammers speak with a south Asian accent. In recent weeks, viewers who contacted KING 5 said the scam calls show up on caller ID as a 215 area code number, though most victims say the calls came from 202 area code numbers.

Scams like these are most likely to work on the elderly, people with mental disabilities or people who have difficulty speaking English.

The IRS says it will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling.

The IRS says it will typically make first contact with people via mail, not by phone. If you get one of these calls just hang up. Remember, if the IRS wants you, they know how to find you. They won't give you a courtesy call first.

If you get a call like this one, the IRS says to call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or file a report online.

You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov (add IRS Telephone Scam to the comments of your complaint).

Other signs that it may be a scam:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • More information about the scam from the FTC.
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