Although telephone and e-mail scams involving the IRS are not new, the quantity of reports have been increasing in recent years (over 290,000 calls have been reported to the IRS since October 2013), and the sophistication of the scammers has been increasing as well. This week, I’d like to examine two of the most common scams, and how to protect yourself and keep your money and personal information safe.
IRS Impersonation Telephone Scam
In this scenario, the caller claims to be an employee of the IRS, using a fake name and IRS badge number, and demands payment for money they say you owe the IRS. Many times, they alter Caller ID to make it look like the call is local, sometimes even going as far as to say “IRS.” They tell you that you must pay with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, and will usually become hostile if you refuse to cooperate, threatening arrest, deportation, or suspension of your driver’s license. Another variation of this scam involves the caller saying you have a refund in an attempt to trick you into sharing your personal information. In both cases, if the call isn’t answered, they may leave an “urgent” callback request.
If you receive a call like this, hang up. The IRS will never call you. Specifically, the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call you about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill; 2) demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount; 3) require you to use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to have you arrested for not paying. If you owe taxes, or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to work out any payment issues. If you know you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
Email Phishing Scam: “Update your IRS e-file”
The e-mail will appear to be from the IRS, and include a link to a bogus website that mirrors the official IRS website instructing you to update your IRS e-file immediately.
Do not click any links, and do not respond. The IRS does not e-mail. They will never initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. Any e-mails received that claim to be from the IRS should be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.