Kelly Hamlin says when the phone rang, she was certain it would be a stranger, but never expected to hear this.
"We are from the criminal division of the IRS. You owe us 15 thousand dollars. If this issue is not resolved, right now, immediately, in two hours there will be a sheriff on your doorstep," Hamlin said of the frightening call.
Hamlin said she was told she would be arrested if she didn't at least pay a portion of the money owed.
Initially she declined, but says the caller became aggressive, mentioning her daughter, tapping into her deepest vulnerability.
That’s when Hamlin, a single mother, says she gave into the fear, following instructions to go to Kroger, load 500 dollars onto a Google card, then transfer the funds to the caller, ultimately giving up a thousand dollars.
But Hamlin is just one of many with Michigan ranking in the top 10 for the most people to fall victim to irs impersonation by phone.
The latest ploy according to the Detroit IRS Field office is fraudsters compromising your information, then filing false tax returns using tax payer’s information. A refund will be issued going back into the taxpayer’s bank account, followed by a demand that the taxpayer refund the money, without the taxpayer realizing it's a sham.
E-mail spoofing, the office says, is another big problem.
"Every day people are falling prey to these phishing schemes," said Manny Muriel, Special Agent In Charge at the Detroit IRS.
Emails are beginning to look more and more like the real deal. So here’s what the IRS says you need to look out for: any contact via email, text, or social media requesting personal info, anyone threatening arrest, or demanding you pay on the spot with a gift card.
A legitimate IRS professional will never approach you in those ways.
Every year, the IRS outlines the "dirty dozen," a list of common scams taxpayers may encounter anytime during the year. See below:
Even though reports of tax-related identity theft have declined markedly in recent years, the Internal Revenue Service warns that this practice is still widespread and remains serious enough to earn a spot on the agency’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. The Dirty Dozen is compiled each year by the IRS and outlines a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these cons peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire tax professionals. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file a fraudulent tax return claiming a refund. The IRS, the states and the tax industry began working together in 2015 as the Security Summit to fight taxrelated identity theft. Security Summit partners enacted a series of safeguards that are making inroads against identity thieves. For example, the number of taxpayers reporting themselves as identity theft victims declined by 40 percent in 2017 from 2016. In 2017, the IRS received 242,000 reports from taxpayers compared to 401,000 in 2016. This was the second year in a row this number fell, dropping from 677,000 victim reports in 2015. Overall, the number of identity theft victims has fallen nearly 65 percent between 2015 and 2017. Because of these successes, criminals are devising more creative ways to steal more in-depth personal information to impersonate taxpayers. Taxpayers and tax professionals must remain vigilant to the various scams and schemes used for data thefts. Business filers should be aware that cybercriminals also file fraudulent Forms 1120 using stolen business identities and they, too, should be alert. In Michigan, for example, the following individuals engaged in schemes to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by filing false and fraudulent IRS Form 1040 tax returns with the IRS stemming from identity theft: ● Abdullah-Abdul Abdur-Rahman, Lugman Shaban Abdul-Rahim Bowe, Muhammad-Mauth Abdur-Rahim and his uncle Lugman Rashid Bowe, submitted false tax returns that were generally filed without the knowledge or consent of the purported filers. Abdur-Rahman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy. ● Sidney Dowl and his roommate, Angela Avery, defrauded the IRS by filing false and fraudulent tax returns, some of which were filed using false Forms W-2 in the names of filers whose identities they had stolen. Dowl and Avery used tax preparation software to file the returns, directing the U.S. Treasury tax refund checks be mailed to addresses they controlled or had the tax refunds placed on stored value ATM cards. Dowl was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role. ● Siblings Anthony Gandy and Christopher Gandy along with Sharon Gandy-Micheau and her husband, Durand Micheau aka Durand Micheau-El, and others, were convicted by jury in partaking in a conspiracy that relied on stolen identities of innocent victims. IRS mailed the defendants refund checks totaling $940,000. Anthony Gandy was sentenced to 80 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy while Christopher Gandy was sentenced to 72 months while Sharon Gandy-Micheau and her husband Durand Micheau were each sentenced 36 months. ● George Harris engaged in defrauding the IRS by filing false and fraudulent income tax returns. Part of the conspiracy relied on possessing more than 50 credit cards and more than 100 pages of other identification forms, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and addresses used to filed 20 different false tax returns. Harris was sentenced to 35 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy. ● Garielle Lemon, a tax return preparer doing business in Detroit, participated in a scheme to obtain payment of false claims for income tax refunds from the IRS by filing materially false individual federal income tax returns in the names of persons who neither knew of, nor authorized, the use of their names and other personal information (PII) for this purpose. Lemon pled guilty and will be sentenced for his role on April 10, 2018. As part of her plea, she faces 33-41 months in prison. Security Reminders for Taxpayers The IRS and its partners remind taxpayers and tax professionals that they can do their part to help in this effort. Taxpayers and tax professionals should: Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on the computer. Use strong passwords. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails. Protect personal data. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around. The Security Summit has worked to increase awareness among taxpayers and tax professionals about taxrelated identity theft and security steps through its “Taxes. Security. Together.” and “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaigns. The IRS understands that reversing the damage caused by identity theft is a frustrating and complex process for victims. While identity thieves steal information from sources outside the tax system, the IRS is often the first to inform a victim that identity theft has occurred. The IRS is working hard to resolve identity theft cases as quickly as possible. For more information, see the special identity theft section on IRS.gov.