The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is receiving a growing number of reports related to fraudulent phone calls and emails claiming to be from the IRS. Even intelligent, educated individuals can easily be ensnared in a sham that results in money lost or their identities stolen.
These scammers ruthlessly target a wide audience of everyday hardworking people. Since 2013, countless victims have collectively paid millions to unknown thieves. And, worse, their attacks continue to evolve and grow to be even more cutthroat.
IRS scam calls can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at anytime, but it is particularly prevalent around tax time and near the end of the year. Beware if you receive a fake automated IRS call or unexpected message from someone claiming to be with the IRS. They have many tactics to get you to divulge your information. Being aware of the many ways they might try to contact you, the claims that they will make, and the questions that they will ask can help protect you from being a victim of this crime!
How to Spot a Fake IRS Call or Email
Step 1: The contact initiates this conversation through phone, email, or social media and NOT via the mail
The IRS would never ask for personal and financial information (such as debit or credit card numbers) through these channels on an initial call. Scammers, on the other hand, will trick you into thinking that there is an urgency to act quickly, thereby, getting you to divulge personal information on the first phone call.
If you do owe taxes, the IRS will mail you the bill first. In this case, you will have ample notice and even the opportunity to appeal the supposed amount of money if you wish. If someone contacts you through one of these channels asking for personal information and you have had no previous official notification about outstanding amounts owed, then it might be a scammer trying to get this information to steal your identity.
Step 2: The contact demands that you pay now and also requires that you pay in a certain way
Scammers are very tricky and know exactly what they’re doing. They will go as far as to alter the name and phone number on your caller ID to make it seem like you are receiving a call from the IRS. They will then identify themselves as an agent with a fake name and bogus badge number. They will have done their homework and may even know some personal information about you to seem more legitimate. This is all done to scare you into believing they are real so that you will act immediately when they demand that you pay now.
Another red flag is that they will require you to get a prepaid debit card or use a wire transfer to make your payment. Once again, the real IRS will give you ample notice and will only ask for payment in safe and secure terms.
Step 3: The contact begins to threaten or use other methods to scare you into paying
IRS phone scams will try to bully a victim into paying by threatening to do things such as getting police involved, filing a lawsuit, having your license deported or revoked, or saying they won’t be able to help you if you contact your accountant. Sometimes, there might even be a follow-up email or phone call with demands of higher payment and other escalated threats. It’s important to remember that the IRS would try to receive payment without the use of threats and will work with you to settle any debts.
What You Should Do If You Are Contacted by an IRS Scammer
If you get a suspicious, unsolicited call or email from someone claiming to be from the IRS that demands that you pay them right now:
- Do NOT talk to the contact or give them any information
- If it is a phone call, hang up immediately
- If it is an email or other web-based contact, do NOT open any attachments or click on any links to avoid malicious code that could infect your computer. Also, do NOT reply to the message. You may forward it to email@example.com, but then delete it.
- Report the incident with at least one of these organizations:
- Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration – either online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting or by phone at 800-366-4484
- Federal Trade Commission – online at FTC Complaint Assistant
Fordham & Co, LLP is here to help! We want to invest in our community by educating the hardworking public about these scams. Contact us today for the highest quality professional guidance and expert services.