With the Christmas scams behind us we usually have until the heart of tax-filing season when the next major push comes to fraudulently separate us from our money. That takes the form of scammers pretending to be the IRS, and these scams are starting earlier each year.
According to the actual IRS website, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. The IRS encourages taxpayers to learn to recognize the telltale signs of a scam.
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may 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.
Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity.
Limited English proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills.
Note that the IRS doesn’t:
* 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 bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
* Demand payment 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.
The rules are the same as for any scam: Don’t give out any personal information or respond with any financial info or payments without first taking time to check for yourself about whether or not a call is who he or she claims to be.