NYLON – The Internal Revenue Service warned all taxpayers about the threat of tax scams at the height of tax season.
The IRS says that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received 90,000 complaints of scammers calling people claiming to be the IRS and identified about 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated total of $5 million.
“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “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.”
The IRS said that scammers will often do the following, which a true IRS caller would never do: ask for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone; insist that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations; request immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
The IRS says other convincing characteristics of these scams include: fake names and IRS badge numbers, so they generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves; ability to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number; copying the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling; sending emails claiming to be the IRS to some victims to support their calls; background noise during the call to mimic a call site; threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, then hanging up and sometimes calling back pretending to be from the local police or DMV with the correct caller ID to support their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant here. Choose ‘other’ and then ‘Imposter Scams.’ If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words ‘IRS Telephone Scam’ in the notes.
Taxpayers should be aware that other unrelated scams such as a lottery sweepstakes and solicitations such as debt relief also fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
“The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure,” said the IRS on their website here. “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”