The old adage says “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information due to tax scams and fake Internal Revenue Service communications.
What to look out for:
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams:
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. The callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists use fake names and false IRS identification badge numbers. They are able to alter the caller ID to make it look as if the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through 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. Victims may also be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes:
When identity theft takes place over the web (email), it is called phishing. The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information. Remember, the IRS doesn’t communicate via email.
Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP):
If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, please forward it to email@example.com and mention that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information. TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security and PIN numbers or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately 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.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their ‘IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting‘ web page. You can also call 800.366.4484.
- 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 know you owe, or think you may owe tax:
- Call the IRS at 800.829.1040. IRS workers can help you.
- Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit ‘Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts‘ on IRS.gov.
- Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights on IRS.gov.
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email. Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component, should be reported to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.