TODAY   |  March 21, 2014

Government warns about big phone scam

The government issued a warning about the largest tax scam of its kind: More than 20,000 victims across nearly every state have been taken for more than a million dollars. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> big tax scam to tell us about.

>> with tax season upon us , the government is warning taxpayers about a big tax scam. people claiming from the irs calling americans demanding money and a lot of folks have been falling for it. nbc's pete williams is in washington with more on this.

>> good morning. in fact, the treasury department inspector general says this is the largest telephone scam of its kind he's ever seen. and so far the government has received 20,000 complaints about it for people who have paid more than $1 million to whoever's behind it. people claiming to be irs agents call taxpayers and say they owe taxes. and saying it could mean losing a driver's license, a business, or being deported. in some cases, a real-looking irs phone number shows up on the caller i.d. and the caller recites part of the taxpayer's actual social security number . here are some of the warning signs . the irs says it makes first contact with taxpayers by mail not by phone. that's a tip-off. and says it never asks for payments using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. now, this scam actually started showing up last fall, but now it has escalated with complaints from nearly every state. natalie?

>> it is a very scary thing, indeed. pete williams . thank you.