The IRS has given warning of two new tax scams where criminals are illegally taking money from people, pretending to be from government agencies. The first is rather worrying – a letter sent through the US Postal Service. The other are calls and emails purporting to be from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).
Let’s look at these scams and run over what you should do every time you have correspondence from the IRS.
Letter ‘from the IRS’
Letters with official-looking branding supposedly from the IRS are being sent to taxpayers now. According to Business Insider, “Early this summer, the IRS gave taxpayers warning about a notorious scam in which fraudsters mail letters to a taxpayer from a non-existent group known as the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement” demanding instantaneous payments. Some letters even state the IRS and might include tax information that’s factual.”
The first thing is that the ‘Bureau of Tax Enforcement’ does not exist. Some letters have gone a step further, referring to some business that you may actually be doing with the IRS. Business Insider continued, “That is scary for a taxpayer since it feels genuine, but bear in mind that some tax-related information, such as liens that’ve been filed against taxpayers, might be available to the public.”
In using publicly-available dealings with the tax office, these scammers have convinced a lot of people to respond and pay the criminals instead of the US Treasury.
The next thing to note is that the IRS packages their correspondence in a certain way. You will find your tax number (ITIN) on the letter – not something that criminals have generally managed to do. There will also be references to your dealings and a guide showing you your rights as a taxpayer. The final thing is on the envelope itself – this will have the IRS seal on it that can’t be easily counterfeited.
Emails and calls ‘from the Taxpayer Advocate Service’
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent body that are set up to allow people to deal with the IRS without hiring lawyers. You may be in dispute with the IRS over unpaid taxes, or be in arrears with your payments when you call them.
That’s right – the TAS won’t call you in the first instance. You should call them.
According to the IRS, “Recently, in this scam variation, callers “spoof” the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office’s phone number in Brooklyn or Houston. Calls might be ‘robo-calls’ that demand a callback. When taxpayers return the call, the con artist demand for personal information, which includes individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) or Social Security number.”
With these details, the scammers can commit identity theft unless they are out to get your money directly in which case during the call they will make it plain that a payment will be the only way out of some fictional enforcement action.
What you should always do with contact from the IRS
In both the letter and phone scams you will generally be asked to make payments to an unfamiliar payment system or cut a check addressed to an organization you are not familiar with. All payments by check are to the ‘U.S. Treasury’ and no other body. If you wish to make payments by card then go to this IRS webpage to look at the best option for you.
If you have correspondence or a phone call that doesn’t make sense to you, log on to the IRS tax portal and see for yourself. If you owe money it will say so. If you are in arrears it will say so.
Another way forward is to phone the IRS at 800-829-1040 to ask them about the correspondence you have received or contact IRS Tax Attorney. If it is a scam they will tell you.
The final thing to do is to help everyone out by reporting the scam attempt. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “IRS scam” and tell them the number, or show them the email or letter you have received that turns out to be bogus.
It’s never much fun dealing with the IRS but if you deal with it in the correct way you will only end up paying the money you owe and not a red cent to those criminals who want to steal it from you!