Although taxpayers should always be on the lookout for scammers and fraudulent activity, tax season is a time to be especially wary of unknown emails or phone calls. Aggressive phone scams where criminals call posed as IRS officials are extremely common and are a part of the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax-related scams targeting taxpayers. The Dirty Dozen is a list compiled annually by the IRS citing common recent scams taxpayers should be aware of.
How do these scams work? Frauds will make unsolicited calls claiming to be from the IRS and demanding individuals pay counterfeit tax bills. They may also send phishing emails or leave “urgent” phone messages with requests to call back immediately if you do not pick up. If successful, scammers will persuade their victims to send them cash either via prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Phone scammers often threaten their victims with deportation, arrest or driver’s license repeal in an attempt to bully taxpayers into sending the money.
To further convince their victims, criminals can modify the caller ID number to appear like the IRS or another federal agency and use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to make the call appear official. Frauds may also refer to the victim’s name, address or other personal information to persuade individuals of their legitimacy. Since October of 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has been made aware of 12,716 individuals who, due to phone scams, have paid over $63 million collectively.
The IRS also wants to remind taxpayers that while aggressive and threatening phone calls will always be a strategy used by scammers, especially during tax season, criminals do change their tactics and employ versions of this scam year round.
As a continued reminder, below are strategies frauds will use that the IRS will never use:
- Call via phone to demand payment using a specific payment method such as wire transfer. The IRS will mail a bill first if taxes are owed.
- Order that taxes be paid without allowing taxpayers to appeal or question what is owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to include local police or other law enforcement for lack of payment.
- Call regarding a refund.
If you receive a call and think you may owe taxes, hang up immediately and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. If you know you do not owe taxes or are unsure, do not provide any information over the phone. Hang up and report the call the the TIGTA as well as the Federal Trade Commission. The TIGTA can be reached by phone at 800-366-4484 or on their website on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting page. To contact the Federal Trade Commission, go to FTC.gov and visit the FTC Complaint Assistant page and include IRS Telephone Scam in your notes.