If you’ve recently received a phone call that you thought was from the IRS, there’s a chance it was a scam. Taxpayers across the nation are receiving increasingly aggressive phone calls from scammers impersonating IRS agents. Scammers use fake names and fake caller IDs which resemble IRS toll-free numbers. They may even send falsified emails using your personal confidential information on IRS letterheads.
During a phone scam, scammers will inform the victim that they owe back taxes and must pay immediately. They will then threaten the taxpayer with police arrests, lawsuits, and deportation to try and scare victims into cooperating.
Scammers often request a credit card number, wire transfer, or pre-paid debit card number. Since October 2013, 4,550 victims have lost a collective $23 million.
A different variation of the phone scam involves identity theft. A scammer may call and inform a taxpayer that they have a tax return waiting for them if the taxpayer can verify their information. The scammer then tries to get information such as a Social Security number or bank account number.
Despite the prevalence of phone scams, the IRS is making promising headway in identifying fraud. The IRS Criminal Investigation unit in Miami has convicted over 2,000 identity thieves since 2013. A recent high-profile case was an identity theft scheme that involved 16 people filing 12,000 fraudulent tax returns in the names of people who had their identities stolen.
- You can protect yourself from scams by remembering the IRS will never:
- Call without first sending a letter informing you about your taxes.
- Ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
- Threaten you with arrest, lawsuits or deportation.
- Demand that you pay immediately or that you pay in a specific way.
If you believe you may owe back taxes, you can call and check with the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
If you receive a phone call that you believe is a scam, you can call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. You can also lodge a complaint online using the FTC Complaint Assistant, clicking ‘Other’, and using the ‘Immigration or Tax Services’ option to file your complaint.