Monday 11 December 2017

Fake Revenue employee requested €3k in iTunes vouchers for 'confidential tax settlement'

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Rebecca Lumley

A new scam sees fake Revenue employees ask potential victims to transfer their 'tax settlement' in iTunes vouchers.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioner has warned the public to be vigilant of scammers posing as Revenue employees, which, they say, is "very common".

The warning comes after a man in his 30s, revealed the tactics used by scammers trying to dupe him out of €3,000.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, was threatened with jail-time by individuals posing as Revenue workers, who accused him of deliberately extorting €3,209 from the Government body.

He told Independent.ie he had paid a Revenue tax bill recently, which he thinks made him “a good mark for some easy money.”

The man received an automated phone call from a Dublin number, where a computerised voice told him a legal notice was being served against him. He was advised to contact the same number directly for further information.

When he returned the call he was told that three criminal allegations were being filed against him, including violation of revenue rules and regulations, incorrect filing of income tax returns and stealing tax from Revenue.

He was told that he owed more than €3,000 due to a “miscalculation” dating back to 2013, by an individual who he said had an Indian accent.

He was told that Revenue possessed evidence that the money had been lost or stolen intentionally and warned that the man could receive jail time, as well as having his house and assets seized.

"There was a lot of legal garbling, which was unintelligible due to a heavy Indian accent. Jail was mentioned, as was seizing of house and all assets. Heavy handed for €3k, I thought. But hey, don’t f*ck with revenue, right?

"After I said that I was unaware of this outstanding money, had received no notification in relation to it, and had tax clearance certificates for every year which I filed tax via ROS, I was transferred to the initial guy’s Boss, who introduced himself as John – no last names were used.

"This was another Indian gentlemen who was insistent that I not interrupt him or cut across him. He was very shirty when I talked over him or asked questions.

"'I don’t appreciate being talked over' he stated authoritatively.  However, he agreed that I could make restitution, provided I met certain conditions," the man said.

'John' agreed that if the man paid back the money he owed, no further action would be taken, but listed a series of demands that sent “alarm bells ringing.”

John warned the man that he would have to keep their dealings “confidential”, as an alleged 15,000 other taxpayers were in a “similar situation” and they could not be seen ”to give special treatment” by allowing the man to pay his bill with no follow-up action.

John also requested that the man pay the bill within an hour and a half, by way of an iTunes voucher. He told the man that his accounts were frozen and he could no longer make online or phone transactions. He demanded that the man buy the voucher while still on the phone and read out the number on the back of the card.

The man said his alarm bells were now “ear-splitting klaxons”.

Suspecting that he was caught up in a scam, the man asked John to provide him with his PPS number, which Revenue would have on file.

"At this point I asked how I knew these guys represented revenue. I got a blustery response along the lines of: 'you don’t need to do this at all, you can just go to jail if you want'. I then asked for my PPS number and he hung up," he said.

Scams such as this are increasingly common and are carried out through email, text and phone call, according to Revenue press and media relations manager, Clare Omelia. Ms Omelia could not confirm that Revenue was aware of this particular scam.

She said:  “I don’t think anybody who uses email is not getting some of these messages from time to time.”

Ms Omelia advised that anyone in receipt of suspicious correspondence contact the appropriate Revenue office directly, using the numbers supplied on their website.

“If the person receiving it has any suspicion about it at all, the thing to do is circumvent it and contact Revenue directly yourself.

“So if it is a case where Revenue are saying you owe them money, that is the Collector General’s area and the contact details are there. If they’re saying that Revenue owes you money and there’s a refund waiting for you, that’s your local tax district.”

She warned against sending personal information by email or responding to unsolicited phone calls or text messages.

Revenue issued the following advice in relation to phone “phishing” scams:

Anyone who receives contact purporting to be from Revenue requesting payment of tax about which they have any doubt, should contact our Collector General's Division (on MyEnquiries or at 1890 20 30 70).

Anyone who receives a telephone (or email) contact purporting to be from Revenue and suspects it to be fraudulent or a scam, should simply hang up the call (or delete the email).

Anyone who provided personal information in response to a phishing, vishing or smishing contact,  should contact their bank or credit card company immediately.

Anyone who is actually awaiting a tax refund should contact their local Revenue Office to check its status.

Anyone who receives an unsolicited email, telephone call, or text message should be wary, and report all suspicious activity to their local Garda station.

Revenue also posts warnings of scams in circulation on their website.

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