The Income Tax/Criminal Charges Phone Scam Can't Be Legal, Can It?

I got another call this week telling me that criminal charges have been laid against me for income tax problems, and I assume that if I give them all my personal financial information, they’ll help me fight them (I deleted the message as soon as I realized what scam it was).

This is the second call I’ve received like this in the last couple of months. It made me angry - even though I know it is a scam and I just delete the messages, I can see someone who is not as conversant with scams becoming very upset at getting a call like that. Even thought I know it was a scam, the message was still upsetting to me - no one likes getting a call telling them that they have criminal charges laid against them.

This can’t be legal, can it? If you can’t impersonate a police officer, how are these fuckers getting away with impersonating a federal revenue agency?

I have no doubt that it’s illegal in some fashion. They’re “getting away with it” because they are criminals, and they’re banking on not getting caught.

It’s a total scam, and it relies on several factors.
[ol][li]Many people don’t know that the IRS does not make phone calls first[/li][li]Gullibility knows no bounds. Since when does the IRS take iTunes cards for tax payments?[/li][li]The call sounds scary enough and urgent enough that people don’t take time to check[/li][li]The calls are coming from overseas (India, Pakistan), are untraceable, and the US government has no way to police this, so the scammers have no legal worries[/ol][/li]
This scam traps so many people and makes so much money that more crooks are hopping on the bandwagon. There was a story recently about a news reporter who almost fell for it; someone who should have known better.

You’d think that after decades of watching the failed War on Some Drugs, people would understand that ‘X is illegal’ doesn’t mean ‘it is impossible for anyone to do X’.

I’m in Canada, but yeah, it’s all more-or-less the same here.

I guess maybe the question I’m asking is, how are we not doing much to stop such an egregious scam? Is there nothing that CAN be done to stop them?

If the calls are coming from outside of the US (and using VOIP), it’s probably very hard to track them down, much less prosecute them.

And, while this particular scam call is relatively new, scams like this have been run for decades. Twenty years ago, I spent an hour talking my wife’s grandfather out of bringing cash to someone who had called him, and convinced him that there was an issue with his bank account.

It’s a very difficult scam to stop.

  1. Few people report it. I didn’t. (I got two calls.)
  2. Scammers working outside Canada (or the country being targeted) are immensely difficult to catch.
  3. Hell, it’d be hard to catch them even IN Canada.

These scams are done over the phone or with email because it’s very easy to hide your tracks over such means of communication well enough that the cops cannot catch you after the fact.

While the scammers are usually (but not always) physically located outside the US and they are using VoIP, they still need a US teleco to connect from the Internet to the phone network at this end.

That company can be traced. Current US law is strong enough to deal with these folk. But actually punishing them might upset politicians that take contributions from these companies.

But going back many, many decades such frauds are just not seen as important enough to spend time and money going after. Once in a great while they will prosecute one just for show, but that’s all it is. Show.

We don’t count. Get used to it.

It will stop happening when it stops working. That means getting pretty much everyone educated on how the scam works.

Every time I get one of those on my machine, it’s from a number that I know is spoofed. Sometimes it’s even my own (“It’s coming from* inside the house*!”) Anti-spoof tech just isn’t there yet.

Bullshit. I suspect American and Canadian telcos are swamped with complaints about these kind of scams. Given that they do originate overseas, and they come over VoIP, how do you propose to address them? I’m sure the phone companies would love to know.
The Indians did arrest one hive of these scum a while back, but they let the workers go. I haven’t heard what happened to the bosses but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got a slap on the wrist or bribed their way out of even that.
Getting MoMoRobo or some other spam call blocker is about all we can do.
Remember, the FCC sponsored the competition that let to NoMoRobo, and I believe they are doing another one.

A year or two ago, a large call center operation in Mumbai operating the IRS scam was shut down and the ringleaders arrested. I just googled and the trial for the head of the enterprise is ongoing.

It didn’t make a dent in the number of scam calls I get. My WAG is that was just for show. “See, we’re doing something about it!”

There are volunteer anti scammers who go after these people simply by responding and tying up there time. Sometimes they get the scammer to stay on the phone for hours. They figure all the time they are wasting on them means they cannot be scamming someone else.
Sometimes they have been able to reverse the system and take over the scammers computer and cause them problems.

I know; I guess I just forget sometimes. :frowning:

Since the latest scam involves the IRS/Canada Revenue Agency, you’d think the government would get a little bit more involved. The scammers are stepping on government toes, after all.

It could be that. Or it could be that there are multiple companies running the same scam.

Note: The calls enter the country via VoIP, but to call a regular land line or cell phone they have to be routed thru the standard phone network. This is not free, it costs real money. They have to get a contract with a teleco operating in the US to do this.

It doesn’t take much software nowadays to note that one of your clients is setting the Caller ID to the same first 6 digits of millions of calls per day they are making. That flags them as spammers and they lose their contract.

A legit teleco would force clients signing up to specifiy the set of Caller IDs they will be using. Those numbers are checked to make sure they are not faking someone else’s numbers. And if the clients go outside that set, they are cut off.

But not all such services are legit. They are very, very happy to take the scammer’s money.

NoMoRobo? I haven’t gotten the standard two rings and a hangup for a blocked call in two years. They all do the local number thing now.

The GOP has cut the funding for the IRS, and the Trade comm, so what can they do?

I spend a few minutes each morning at work opening the previous day’s mail. Any junk mail that contains a postage paid envelope gets that envelope filled with other junk and mailed back.

I know what I’m doing has no real effect, but I enjoy doing it.

Why are you assuming that the government is doing nothing? The fact that some are able to operate for some periods doesn’t mean that the government is ignoring them. There’s always a cat and mouse game between law enforcement and scammers, with technological arms-races.

I’m not assuming they’re doing nothing; I do think they’re not doing enough. When it’s just scammers taking private citizens’ money, I expect the government to throw their hands up and say, “Too bad, so sad - nothing we can do,” but these scams are actually impersonating a branch of federal governments; that seems like a thing that they would try really hard to stop.