IRS: beware of sweepstakes scams
WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers against unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment for processing sweepstakes prizes.
According to the IRS, TIGTA identified about 1,100 victims who had lost an estimate of $5 million from sweepstakes and lottery scams.
“Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS,” announced IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Recently, a couple from North Carolina pleaded guilty for defrauding hundreds of elderly Americans through a Costa Rica-based sweepstakes scheme.
The defendants Jason Dean Brown, 41, formerly of Burleson, Texas and wife Jessica Anne Brown, 39, of Greensboro, North Carolina pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division told that couple admitted to defrauding elderlies costing them more than $840,000 losses.
It was also confirmed that the Browns owned and operated sweepstakes call centers based in Costa Rica from November 2004 to March 2013.
According to the court documents, the couple along with their co-conspirators would place calls to US residents, mostly seniors through VoIP phones and tell them that they had won a substantial amount of cash through a sweepstakes. Then, they would ask the victims to send money to Costa Rica as insurance fee in order for them to claim the prize.
After the victim sends the “insurance fee”, they would call again asking for more money saying that the victim will receive a larger sweepstakes prize because another winner was disqualified or due to some clerical errors. The scheme continues until the victim discovers the fraud or ran out of money to send.
Officials said that the calls placed via VoIP phones often display a (202) area code to make it appear like it was from U.S. federal agency in Washington, D.C.
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