Beware the phone fraud of Internal Revenue Service impersonators. It’s tax season, and with it comes scam phone calls targeting taxpayers in just about every state. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is urging taxpayers to be aware of the criminals who impersonate IRS and Treasury employees. Thousands of victims have lost more than $1 million as a result of the scam, with TIGTA receiving reports of over 20,000 fake IRS calls this season.
How does the scam work? Taxpayers are called by scammers who claim to be IRS officials. They threaten arrest, deportation, business loss, or the loss of a driver’s license. They also solicit debit card, money order, or bank account information. No real IRS representative would make threats or solicit personal financial information over the phone.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George calls these scams “an epidemic, robbing taxpayers of millions of dollars of their money.”
While investigative progress and prosecution has been made, the scams go on. TIGTA continues to receive reports of thousands of contacts every month. Worst of all, these calls often seem real:
scammers often use a taxpayer’s common name, know the last four digits of his or her Social Security number, and have crafted caller ID information that makes them appear to be working for the IRS. Sometimes they follow up with fake IRS emails or with calls pretending to be with the police or DMV.
Taxpayers should be aware that the IRS contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes; they do not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order, or wire transfer; and they never ask for a credit card number over the phone.
George is committed to warning taxpayers about these scams, through public service announcements in English and Spanish, as well as through traditional law enforcement channels, non-governmental organizations, and the media.
The goal: to make sure taxpayers do not fall prey to this crime of opportunity. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you do not pay immediately, do not engage with these callers. If they call you, hang up.”
If you don’t owe any federal taxes, report the incident to the IRS integrity hotline at 1-800-366-4484. If you do owe federal taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
You can also fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.tigta.gov, call TIGTA at 800-366-4484, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint. Scam emails received? Forward them to email@example.com. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links.
“The callers are aggressive and relentless,” George states. “We will be very aggressive in pursuing those perpetrating this fraud.”
Questions about a call from the IRS? A phone call can mean clients are in collections with an assigned revenue officer. If you receive a call and you’re not sure if it’s real or a scam, we can help. At Tax Defense Partners, we have 18 years of experience with tax preparation, resolution, and IRS negotiation skills. Our staff of skilled CPAs, enrolled tax agents, and tax attorneys are available to handle every kind of tax situation.