Joint Efforts by DOJ, TIGTA, IRS and Others Target Transnational IRS Phone Scam Responsible for Over $250 Million Stolen

CCH Tax Day Report

A joint press conference on October 27 detailed cross-governmental, multi-agency collaborative efforts, and progress made, against an ongoing transnational scheme that has targeted approximately 10,000 individuals in the U.S. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) led the investigation, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The scheme has consisted of coordinated telephone calls in which alleged perpetrators from call centers in India collaborate with U.S.-based individuals to impersonate IRS or Immigration agents and solicit payments.

TIGTA has been investigating the IRS impersonation scam since 2013, according to TIGTA J. Russell George. “More than 1.8-million people have reported to TIGTA that they have received an impersonation call; more than 9,600 victims reported that they paid the criminal impersonators a total amount that exceeds $50 million,” George said.

In total, over $250-million has been stolen from individuals by callers impersonating IRS or Immigration agents, according to John Roth, Department of Homeland Security IG. The callers made threats of imprisonment or deportation, he added. Although the scam effected many different demographics, the elderly and South Asian immigrants were particularly targeted, according to Leslie Caldwell, DOJ assistant attorney general.

After a joint investigation spanning three years, the DOJ obtained an indictment charging over 50 individuals and entities, authorities announced at the press conference.” Twenty individuals were arrested today in the U.S. and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement,” the DOJ announced.

According to the indictment filed in the Houston Division of the U.S. Southern District Court of Texas, individuals from call centers in India worked with a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to collect the money through prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. “The prepaid debit cards were often registered using misappropriated personal identifying information of thousands of identity theft victims,” the DOJ explained.

“I want to make it very clear for everyone listening, that although the actions today are significant, members of the public must not let their guard down,” George cautioned. He noted that the perpetrators are persistent and that TIGTA continues to actively conduct related investigations.

“The actions announced today are a major victory for the nation’s taxpayers and anyone who owns a phone,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “The IRS will continue our efforts to raise awareness about these and other scams, and we will continue supporting the important work of TIGTA and the DOJ.”

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

TIGTA Press Release: Inspector General Comments on Indictment of Alleged IRS Phone Fraud Scammers

DOJ Press Release: Dozens of Individuals Indicted in Multimillion-Dollar Indian Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

Justice Department Unsealed Indictment

IRS Flyer—Warning: Impersonation Scam

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