‘Tis the Season for IRS Scams

October 20, 2016 – After hearing about the police in India arresting 70 people on suspicion of posing as IRS agents, and Bob Pollock’s post last week on the IRS CP 2000 scam  I couldn’t help but remind and caution you about IRS scams.If you missed the story about the bogus call centers, you can read about here.

These schemes – which can occur over the phone, in e-mails or through letters with authentic looking letterhead – try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal.

It May Be a Scam, If …

Scammers posing as IRS agents first targeted those they viewed as most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. These criminals have expanded their net and are now targeting virtually anyone.

In a new variation, scammers alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it seem like they are with the IRS or another agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. They use fake names, titles and badge numbers. They use online resources to get your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They even go as far as copying official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.

Brazen scammers will even provide their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where the victim can obtain a means of payment such as a debit card. And in another new variation of these scams, con artists may then provide an actual IRS address where the victim can mail a receipt for the payment – all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.

The most common theme with these tricks seems to be fear. Scammers try to scare people into reacting immediately without taking a moment to think through what is actually happening.

These scam artists often angrily threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation or other similarly unpleasant things. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests, sometimes through “robo-calls,” via phone or email. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your reply.

Helpful Hints

Remember the official IRS website is IRS.gov.

Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.

Never provide personal information, financial or otherwise, to suspicious websites or strangers calling out of the blue.

The real IRS would never:

  • Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

What you should do if you think you’re the target of an IRS impersonation scam:

  • If you actually do owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by any scam, be sure to contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Compliant Assistant at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

For more information on reporting tax scams, go to IRS.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

The Federal Trade Commission provides a Step-by-Step Checklist of what to do if you have been a victim of identity theft, tax-related or other.  Their checklist includes information on what to do right away, what to do next, and any other additional steps that you might have to take depending on your situation.

Keep in mind that the IRS sends notices by regular mail, and that they will not email you asking for personal information. You should report suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov, and suspicious phone, fax or mail scams to 1-800-366-4484.

For more information, please contact Samantha Affolter at 716.634.8800 or saffolter@dopkins.com.

 

About the Author

Samantha Affolter CPA

Samantha helps both business and individual clients with her tax compliance and tax planning expertise.

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