Although the big 2016 tax filing season is winding down, scammers are not. Even if you’ve already filed and paid your taxes, you could be at risk for identity theft if you don’t know how to handle an IRS scam call. So here’s all the information you need to arm yourself against scam calls, emails, text messages, and, yes, even Facebook messages, of people pretending to be the IRS.
Common Scam Types
- -IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
- -Aggressive and threatening phone calls by people impersonating IRS agents
- -Variations continue year-round, peaking when scammers find prime opportunities to strike
- -Video relay services (VRS) have been known to be used to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals
- -Scammers may know a lot about their target and will often approach victims with Limited English Proficiency
- -Email, Phishing, and Malware Schemes
- -Phishing: identity theft that takes place over the web
- -Approx. 400% surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season
- -Scam emails and text messages are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they’re official IRS communication
- -Phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, personal information, transcripts, and PIN information.
How to Spot a Scam
- 1. The IRS will not call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will only call about taxes owed if they’ve mailed you a bill first, and even then you won’t be required to pay over the phone.
- 2. The IRS will not demand that you pay taxes without allowing you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- 3. The IRS does not require you to use a specific payment of method to pay your taxes, like a prepaid debit card. The IRS offers a few different ways to pay tax amounts so if you’re being pressured to use a specific method, it’s probably not the IRS.
- 4. The IRS will not ask for your credit or debit card number over the phone. The IRS doesn’t allow over-the-phone payments, so this is a big red flag.
- 5. The IRS will not threaten to bring in local police or any other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS handles late or missed tax payments internally so they won’t call the cops on you for not paying.
What to Do If You Get a Scam Call
It’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind that the IRS will not call you to demand money for taxes that you may owe. And the IRS will never use unsolicited email, text messages, or social media to discuss your personal taxes. But if “they” do, and you recognize the call for the scam it is, here’s what you need to do:
- -If you know you do or might owe taxes but are unsure the person you’re talking to is really with the IRS, hang up and call them yourself at 1-800-829-1040. This way, you’ll know for sure you’re talking with an IRS representative and that the information they’re giving you is legit.
- -If you know you don’t owe any taxes, hang up and report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). They can be reached at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
- -File a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant. From this Federal Trade Commission site, choose the category “Other,” then “Imposter Scams.” If your complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in your notes.
Recently Reported IRS Scams
Scams Targeting Tax Professionals
Unfortunately, even tax professionals aren’t safe from identity theft, and the IRS recommends they review Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, to ensure your and your clients’ taxpayer data is secure. Recent scams targeting tax professionals you may want to be on the lookout for include
Be sure to check with the IRS’s website regularly for any new scams as well as how to keep yourself protected from them. And also be sure to stay tuned with ExpressTaxFilings for all your taxpayer information needs!