Consumers should still keep vigilant after crackdown on tax fraud call center

A police official, right, escorts two men outside the court in Thane, in the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Indian police have arrested 70 people and are questioning hundreds more after uncovering a massive scam to cheat thousands of Americans out of millions of dollars by posing as U.S. tax authorities and demanding unpaid taxes. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
A police official, right, escorts two men outside the court in Thane, in the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Indian police have arrested 70 people and are questioning hundreds more after uncovering a massive scam to cheat thousands of Americans out of millions of dollars by posing as U.S. tax authorities and demanding unpaid taxes. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

For the last year, scammers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service have been relentless, calling unsuspecting people at all hours of the day and night, and sometimes several times a day.

The result: More than 10,000 victims in the U.S., totaling losses of more than $300 million.

But a major breakthrough by law enforcement looks like a victory for consumers. Earlier this month, 70 people were arrested in India as part of a raid on a call center. Twenty more were arrested in the U.S.

“Finally, the government had taken the steps that said we’re going to take this seriously,” said Greg Dunn, Hawaii Better Business Bureau CEO. “We’re going to track these people down, and with the cooperation of the Indian authorities, they proceeded to arrest the individuals that were responsible.”

The Better Business Bureau says these efforts have led to a dramatic drop in the number of calls being reported.

“Nationally, the instances of those reports went from our number-one reported scam to where it’s fallen 95 percent to just 11 reports nationally within the last week,” Dunn said.

When asked if this could be the end of the IRS phone scam, Dunn said it’s “highly doubtful. This was a big business. It was a huge enterprise. We’re talking upwards of 750 employees in this call center that were hammering consumers primarily in the United States. … These folks may have gotten caught, but unfortunately, that opens the way for someone else to move in to take over that business.”

The BBB says if you get one of these calls, do not under any circumstance give out any personal information, and never send money.

If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or send an email to actionline@khon2.com.

So far this year, our Action Line volunteers have helped save or recover $350,000 for consumers.

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