DC leads nation for IRS robo-scams (and no, the IRS won’t text you)

Reston, Virginia-based Transaction Network Services has seen a spike in recent months in IRS-related robocall and robotext scams — and residents in the D.C. region are getting a lot of them.

“What we see now in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area there is the highest level of per-capita spam alerts of this type of issue. Basically a 20% increase over the next largest area of similar population,” said John Haraburda, director of product management at TNS, who leads its Identity and Protection Unit.

D.C. residents, alone, are seeing an average of more than 5,300 fake IRS robocalls a week.

He suggests taking advantage of risk-alert services provided by carriers, and to be alert in general. Scams are increasingly sophisticated, but some are easy to spot right off the bat.

“If you see ‘IRS’ showing up as the caller name, generally speaking the IRS does not make outbound phone calls to individual citizens,” Haraburda said.

IRS-related scams range from debt collection and threat of forfeiture, to assistance with tax filing. One is called the “ghost preparer.”

“The ghost preparer is someone saying ‘You’re a busy person, let me help you fill out your taxes.’ The only thing they need from you is your bank account number, your Social Security number and all your pertinent information. They are happy to fill our your forms, but they don’t co-sign the return, like a legitimate tax professional would,” Haraburda said.

It is believed that seniors are the most vulnerable and likely to fall for such scams, but there are victims of all ages.

“You do have the young people who may have a higher level of trust. They’re happy to do things online and don’t have much awareness or concern. You have minority populations that may be taken advantage of given limited knowledge of English and tax laws, he said.

Robocalls and robotexts in general have shifted away from COVID-19 related scams and back to more traditional, yet increasingly sophisticated scams, according to TNS.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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