Far too many people have lost millions of dollars as well as their personal information because thy have become victims of the common tax scams that run rampant around this time of the year. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals and to get personal information and money from them. As a follow-up to our previous article on common tax scams, it is important to know the common scams that go around and target taxpayers!
Scams Targeting Taxpayers
If there is one thing people need to know about tax scams and the best way to detect a scam when you see one is this simple fact: The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. “The IRS is reminding taxpayers to beware of criminals who continue using devious tactics to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting victims, especially as the fall season approaches” (IRS.gov). According to the Official IRS Website for Tax Scams, they want the general public to be aware of the following:
- 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.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers or other personal information like social security numbers or family member names over the phone.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
Recognize the tell-tale signs of a scam by familiarizing yourself with these common scams:
IRS warns of “Tax Transcript” email scam
The IRS want the general public to be cautious and vigilant at all times, but specially as tax season rolls around. In most previous years there has always been a surge of fraudulent emails going around where the scammers are impersonating the IRS. They pretend to be messaging from official IRS emails and will also include tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open attachments that are sent in the emails. The problem is these attachments contain malware, spyware, and other virus and trojans that can harm or destroy computers.
IRS warns of scams related to natural disasters
In the wake natural disasters like hurricanes in Florida and fires in California, the Internal Revenue Service wants consumers to remember that criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims of major disasters. They will send emails and mailings or make phone calls saying that the IRS is allowing people to make donations to charities to help victims as a way to pay off part or all of their owed taxes. This is a scam and the IRS never offers such an exchange for owed taxes.
IRS continues warning on impersonation scams
Even once your taxes are done and tax season is officially over, the Internal Revenue Service warns that all taxpayers need to remain vigilant for phishing emails and telephone scams. The time immediately following the close of tax season is a hot time for scammers as they will target those waiting for refunds and replies from the IRS. Think before you give out any kind of personal details or information about your taxes to someone who contacts you via email or phone call- it is most likely a scam!
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
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 badge numbers. The people they scammers call are told they owe back taxes or fees and that they need to send payments right away or they will face more fees, seizing of their paychecks, or even jail time. The IRS will never ask for payments over the phone or order you to send payments via gift cards, checks, or direct deposits.
Final Thoughts from the IRS
“Scams take many shapes and forms, such as phone calls, letters and emails. Many IRS impersonators use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a fabricated tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest or deport their would-be victim if the victim doesn’t comply” (IRS).
If you need help dealing with suspected scam calls it is important to contact the IRS directly. They can verify if a legal representative contact you or if you are dealing with a scam. If you get a scam call or email you should also report it directly to the IRS so they can try to intercept the scammer and deal with them quickly before they target someone else!
As a closing thought, if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS remember this: “The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations. Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail” (IRS) Be alert and protect yourself from tax scams this year.