Don’t Fall for New Tax Scam Tricks by IRS Posers

The scammers are out in force, and everyone who maintains any kind of data can be at risk, even the juggernaut known as the IRS.

There are some newer tricks the scammers are trying-  stay alert to protect yourself against new ways criminals pose as the IRS to trick you out of your money or personal information.

At first the bad guys would go after what they thought would be a more vulnerable population: people that didn’t speak the language well, older people who may be more easily tricked or businesses that are new to the US and/or the IRS. But the bad guys have cast their net wider, and now everyone is a potential target.  

Some things to be aware of: 

  • They use scare tactics to frighten you.  A call will come in that threatens arrest, having your business license revoked or other horrible consequences to intimidate people into paying money. These scams are both  aggressive and sophisticated; scams try to scare people into making a false tax payment that never goes to the IRS. You could get an “urgent” callback requests, sometimes through “robo-calls,” via phone or email. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for you to reply. 
     
  • Scams can manipulate the phone number that shows up on caller ID.  The bad guys know what they are doing, they can alter their phone number to look like the call is from the IRS. They often use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legit. There is a lot of information about you online, and some of this information can be sued to ‘prove’ to you they are legitimate. They can sound mean and threatening as fake officials addressing you. 
     
  • Scams use both phishing email and regular mail.  Scammers copy official IRS letterhead to use in email or regular mail they send to their targets. A new wrinkle is out there: the scammers demand a payment be sent to one address,but they will provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the funds they have sent, to make the scam look like it is also legitimate. .
     
  • Scams have cost victims over $20 million.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has received reports of about 600,000 contacts since October 2013. TIGTA is also aware of nearly 4,000 victims who have collectively reported over $20 million in financial losses as a result of tax scams.

How to protect yourself

Knowing a few facts about how the IRS does business can help.  The real IRS will not:

  • Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount that you owe.
  • Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card, or send to an address that is not directly to the IRS office.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or ask for other personal information.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

If you don’t owe taxes or do not believe  that you do:

  • Do not give any information to the caller. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
  • You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you think you may owe pr know you still need to pay  taxes:

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. True employees will help you find out how much, when due and how to pay.

Some examples:

*Someone called and quite aggressively told a 60 year old woman that a sheriff was already en route to their home for an unpaid ( and fake) tax bill. They wanted her to go the the grocery store, buy a prepaid debit card and send it immediately to an address that was not the IRS.

*When filing his taxes, an attorney was informed by the IRS that his refund had already been sent; interesting this taxpayer  has never received a refund, he always needs to pay. Which means the IRS got scammed as well. 

*A new business was called and offered a payout program for their owed taxes, and this caller  was going to make sure that their payments were correctly applied- but not to the IRS. 

Be skeptical, double check with the real IRS before you provide any funds, information or details. Anyone can call, anyone can send a letter; and if it seems funky to you, it probably is. 

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

This is a preventable problem, don’t let it become yours. 

image credits: http://www.cyberguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IRS-Scam-Calls-300×185.jpg