There has been a rash of phone scams going on this year – scammers posing as IRS agents that is. I haven’t personally received any of the calls, but I’ve had calls from several clients who have gotten these calls.
They can be very disconcerting, to say the least. In the typical phone scam, the caller contacts you out of the blue, and seems to have information about your home address, or bank, or other somewhat personal information. They then tell you that you owe a pile of taxes and you have to pay up now or the local police will be on the way to see you. They will readily take your credit or debit card information right now, over the phone.
The flip side is that they’ll say you have a refund coming and will ask for your bank account information so that they can transfer it to you, right away!
In both cases, there are plenty of clues that can help you to spot the scam. Recently the IRS published a Newswire (IR-2014-84) which details some information that will be helpful to help you figure it out. The text of the Newswire follows:
Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.
The callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about your, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.
“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
- Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at www.FTC.gov.
Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.IRS.gov and type “scam” in the search box.