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.
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 instantaneous payment with the use of a certain payment method like a wire transfer, gift card, or prepaid debit card. The IRS does not use these tax payment methods. Normally, the IRS will initially mail a bill to taxpayers who owe taxes. All tax payments must only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury & checks must never be made payable to third parties.
- Threaten to quickly bring in the local police or other groups of law enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Claim that taxes are to be paid without the need to give taxpayers the chance to appeal or question the amount owed.
- Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
If you have 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 is calling you in a genuine situation (even if regarding enforcement action) and 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!
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 have also spoofed federal agencies, state departments of motor vehicles, local sheriff’s offices 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’s similar to & often related to the IRS impersonation scam. It’s yet another attempted effort by con artists to scare people to return ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers might mention overdue taxes as well as threatening to cancel the SSN of the person.”
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 levy or lien. The IRS state, “The levy or lien’s based on bogus owed delinquent taxes to an agency that’s non-existent, “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” There’s no such agency. Also, the lien notification scam likely references the IRS to start confusing 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. Utilize their web page “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting”.
- Have the caller ID reported or/and callback number to the IRS by having it sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Have it Reported to the Federal Trade Commission. On FTC.gov, make use of the FTC Complaint Assistant. Add in the notes, “IRS Telephone Scam”.
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 at 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.