Scammers have become extremely clever in conning people out of their money in the belief they are taking measures to avoid being penalized by the IRS. The IRS has released a statement looking at some of the cleverest and most dangerous operations they know of today, and makes suggestions as to what to do.

Beware of sophisticated tax scammers!

The IRS NEVER does the following

If you have had a call, email or letter purporting to come from the IRS, you should first remember that the IRS never does anything on the list below:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you have had had a call, email or letter with these demands or threats then you can be assured it is a scam. To add to this, the IRS in calling you in a genuine situation (even if regarding enforcement action) will never be threatening in any voicemail or email message. That is to say, even if they are genuinely out to get you their message will be neutral!

Scam tricks

Even if the Caller ID apparently comes from the IRS and you recognize the number, this is not a definite sign that it is them. Scammers have the ability to spoof Caller ID so people are convinced that they are being called by the federal tax agency.

According to the IRS, “Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.” If you get these calls it will help to find the correct phone number for your local IRS office and to politely tell the caller that you will call them back yourself. Call that number and ask the IRS if the call you received is genuine. Remember that if genuine the IRS officer will be happy for you to do this.

You may have a call threatening to have your social security number deleted or suspended. This is one of the newest scams out today. The IRS state, “In this variation, the Social Security cancellation threat scam is similar to and often associated with the IRS impersonation scam. It is yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN.”

Though the US Postal Service is often very good at intercepting such mail before it reaches people, there are mailings going out that threatens an IRS lien or levy. The IRS state, “The lien or levy is based on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency, “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” There is no such agency. The lien notification scam also likely references the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a legitimate organization.”

What do you do?

In all these instances where you think you are being scammed, you should report it to the IRS. The IRS state:

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page.
  • Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to phishing@irs.gov (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you believe you owe tax, then check your tax account online to verify what you owe and what to pay. A second option is to call the IRS on 800-829-1040 and speak to their agents directly.

Scammers make billions a year

For many, their tax bill is a big enough expense without shoveling cash into a criminal’s bank account and having no way of getting it back. If you feel uncomfortable about a contact with the IRS (beyond them being after you over a tax debt!) then get in contact with them directly and in most cases you should be safe.