Jessica M. Karmasek Dec. 17, 2013, 3:00pm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey cautioned residents Monday about phone scammers who are pretending to work for the Internal Revenue Service and threatening individuals with arrest or punishment if they don't pay up.

The scam, Morrisey said, is occurring in West Virginia and other states. The scammers often demand payment in the form of a pre-paid debit card or money order, he said.

"These callers claim the person who answered the phone has unpaid taxes that must be paid immediately," the attorney general said in a statement. "They use aggressive language and threaten everything from jail time to deportation to loss of a driver's license or business license if the money isn't paid immediately.

"This is a despicable scam that plays off of citizen's fear and confusion about the IRS. Citizens need to know this isn't how a federal agency works."

According to the IRS, the callers who commit this fraud often:

- Use common names and provide fake IRS badge numbers;

- Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security number;

- Make it appear as if the IRS is really calling;

- Send fake IRS emails to support their scam; and

- Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV to support their claim.

"While scammers often use high pressure sales tactics to force consumers into bad decisions, the IRS will never make threats of violence or ask you to pay via pre-paid cards or wire transfer," Morrisey said.

The attorney general said residents who believe they may have a tax issue should contact the IRS directly, rather than answer questions from someone who calls or emails them out of the blue.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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