Well, it’s that time of year again—tax season. And you can be sure that the world’s scam artists are on the job. According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, “tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the FTC last year, while the number of consumer complaints about criminals impersonating IRS officials was nearly 24 times more in 2014 than in 2013.” Twenty-four times!
Here’s the tax scammer’s typical M.O.:
A. You receive a phone call (or text message or e-mail or fax) out of the blue to inform you that you owe back taxes.
B. If it’s a phone call and you have caller ID, it may actually show that the “Internal Revenue Service” is calling. The caller ID system is easy to fool.
C. The caller (or author of the text message, e-mail or fax) states that you must pay the back taxes immediately by wiring money or loading money on a prepaid debit card. Scammers do their homework, so may know part or all of your Social Security number and may even give you a (fake) IRS badge number!
D. The caller may demand to know your credit card number to “expedite” or “assure” payment.
E. If you don’t sound cooperative on the phone (or via text messages or e-mails), the caller turns threatening and promises to have you arrested.
F. You may even receive a second threatening call shortly thereafter that caller ID indicates is from your city’s police department!
Don’t be fooled by these scammers!
Remember: the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via phone calls, text messages or e-mail! Instead, the IRS will initiate correspondence only in writing, and will always give a taxpayer the right to attend a meeting in person to challenge any overdue taxes.
So, some suggestions for avoiding the tax scammers:
1. Use call screening and don’t pick up any call that purports to initiate first contact with the IRS
2. If you do pick up the phone, insist that the caller give you their name, badge number, callback number and office address, then end the call.
3. After that, call 800-366-4484 to determine if the caller really works for the IRS or not. That’s the number for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). If TIGTA confirms the caller is with the IRS, you should return the call.
4. If TIGTA states the caller was not with the IRS, please file a complaint with TIGTA and notify email@example.com (put “IRS Telephone Scam” in your e-mail’s title).
5. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by going to http://www.ftc.com and label your e-mail as “IRS Telephone Scam.”
6. If the scammer used e-mail, a fax, text messaging or other social media, please also notify http://www.ic3.gov That is the website for the Internet Crime Complaint Center and is a joint program of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
And finally, remember that if you fall for one of these scams, it’s virtually impossible to get money back once it’s been wired or loaded on a prepaid debit card. Knowledge is your best defense!