The IRS just renewed its October, 2013 warning about a pervasive phone scam that continues to target people across the nation, including recent immigrants. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called it the largest scam of its kind. As of March 20, this tax division reported that it has received reports of over 20,000 contacts related to this scam. It also stated that thousands of victims have paid over $1 million to fraudsters claiming to be from the IRS.
As some of you may recall, on Halloween the IRS announced (IR-2013-84) the newest and scariest phone scam. Someone has a sick sense of humor out there.
This sophisticated and sinister phone scam targets taxpayers, especially recent immigrants, throughout the country.
Details of This Phone Scam According to the IRS
In this scam, the thief poses as the IRS and makes an unsolicited call to their target. The caller tells the victim they owe taxes to the IRS. They demand that the victim pay the money immediately with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. As I said, this is really scary stuff.
“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. My advice: If you get such a call, hang up immediately!
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Be aware that the IRS does not contract taxpayers in this fashion. In almost all cases, the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue occurs by mail.
Other characteristics of this scam that may lead you to believe that this is a legitimate phone call and to intimidate you into giving them what they want include the following:
- These impostors use fake names and IRS badge numbers.
- They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- These con artists may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
- These crooks spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it seem that it’s the IRS calling.
- They sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, these charlatans hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
As you can see, these guys are good. Do not under any circumstances give them any information or pay them a thing no matter how threatened you may feel!
How To Protect Yourself
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, hang up immediately and call your tax attorney, your accountant or the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue. This way you know for sure you are dealing with the IRS.
- 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), once again, immediately hang up and then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS. The 419 Nigerian scam depicted in the picture above resulted in losses to many victims in that country. No matter how believable or how much you are intimidated, never let your guard down and stay skeptical and vigilant.
Know How The IRS Operates
- The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes.
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. In this case, “snail” mail is a good thing.
- They do not use 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.
- The IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
- Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in any message that seems to be from the IRS. Instead, forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be wary of any unexpected phone or email communication allegedly from the IRS.
- Don’t fall for phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure.
- Thieves often pose as the IRS using a bogus refund or warnings to pay past-due taxes.
- If someone calls you about taxes, they will tell you whether it is the IRS or some state or local authority. Get their name and badge number and do not give them any information or money. Then hang up and call that taxing authority directly to get to the bottom of the situation.
Has anyone been a victim of this scam or other scams or fraud? Please share your experiences in the Leave A Reply area below.
As required by United States Treasury Regulations, you should be aware that this communication is not intended by the sender to be used, and it cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under United States federal tax laws.
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm’s full disclaimer.