Don’t Get Scammed This Tax Season
Tax season is upon us and with that, the IRS has released their 2017 “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams. The “Dirty Dozen” is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter during the year. Many of these scams peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire tax professionals. This year, phishing and phone calls top the list from the series. These particular tax scams can present themselves in a variety of ways, with the perpetrators using threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a fabricated tax bill. It is critical all taxpayers be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees.
Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. Phishing e-mails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the industry. Variations can be seen via text messages and other social media channels. These phishing scams can include links to bogus websites intended to mirror the official IRS website and may contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” These communications are not from the IRS and seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing and ever-increasing threat to taxpayers. Fraudsters will make unsolicited calls and may even leave urgent callback requests, using robocall machines and manipulating caller ID to validate their identity. They may even know the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Callers intend to intimidate victims telling them they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card, money order or a wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with being charged with a criminal violation, a grand jury indictment, immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.
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. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying, demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you suspect you are a victim, do not give out any information and hang up immediately. The IRS advises taxpayers to report suspicious online or e-mail phishing scams to firstname.lastname@example.org. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.