In recent years many Americans have fallen victim to tax scams and fraudulent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) communications through phone calls, e-mails, and paper mail. We put together this brief guide that may help you identify what to look for, and some steps that you can take to protect yourself from potential IRS scammers.
How To Recognize An IRS Tax Scam
The IRS will only ever initiate contact with you through certified mail with a notice and an explanation of your outstanding balance. You can always confirm the validity of IRS callback numbers by searching the web. They will never reach out to you via social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) nor via e-mail. It’s also important to know that they will never call you directly to:
- Demand any sort of immediate payment
- Require you to use a specific payment method such as pre-paid debit cards
- Ask for credit card or bank account numbers
- Verify any personal information such as Social Security numbers (SSN)
- Threaten you with a lawsuit or jail time for nonpayment
These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound extremely convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it appear as though the IRS is calling. They use fake names and phony IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.
When being asked about tax fraud scams today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said this: “These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls. We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
Examples of IRS Tax Fraud Today
Here are some of the most common tax scams used today, according to the IRS:
Automated Phone Messages
“Robo-calls” are automated phone messages where scammers are leaving urgent callback requests to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Alternatively, scammers may tell would-be victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information.
These are false notices appearing to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. Generally, notices contain a fraudulent version of CP2000 (specific type of notification from the IRS) for tax year 2015 as an attachment.
Scammers are sending e-mails citing tax fraud and attempting to trick victims into verifying the last four digits of their SSN by clicking on a link provided. There have been significant phishing scams targeting Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia residents.
Phone Calls During Back-To-School Season
Fraudsters are making calls targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season. They are demanding payment of non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
Telephone Calls To “Verify Information”
Con artists are making calls and claiming to be from the IRS or Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS. They are requesting verification of personal details to process your tax return, such as your SSN or other personal financial information like bank account or credit card numbers.
Click Here for additional information on these types of scams.
What To Do If You Believe You've Been Targeted
Scammers use official IRS letterhead and provide an actual IRS address where taxpayers should mail receipts for payments submitted. This type of correspondence looks very official. Taxpayers who receive a notice or letter can view explanations and images of common correspondence at https://www.irs.gov or at Understanding Your IRS Notice Or Letter.
If you have received a CP2000 notice by mail, Understanding Your CP2000 Notice will help you to determine if it is in fact official correspondence from the IRS.
Should you receive fraudulent correspondence, you should report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and send an E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and include ‘IRS Scam’ in the subject line.
You can also use the View Your Account Information Tool available on the IRS website. After completing a secure registration process, you will be able to check your tax account balances online including any tax due, penalties, and/or interest.
Please remember, do not give out any information to IRS callers, and hang up the phone immediately. The longer that you stay on the line with the con artist, the more opportunity they will perceive to exist. This will only result in continued communication.
Protect yourself, and remember, you can always call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040