IRS Phone scams: An increasing problem
In recent years, the IRS has noted a surge in the number of attempted phone scams against taxpayers in the United States. In the past two years almost 900,000 reports of contact from scam artists claiming to be revenue agents were passed on to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax administration. Over 5,000 taxpayers have been conned into making payments in this manner and over $26.5m has been paid out in false liabilities.
How does the scam take place?
An impersonator claiming to be an IRS officer (usually armed with a fake badge number) contacts the victim requesting a payment of overdue taxes due immediately, either in the form of cash, pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The call can include menacing threats, such as arrest, deportation or seizure of assets in order to intimidate a victim into paying. Sometimes failure to file a fictional form is suggested as the reason for an outstanding amount being due.
In other cases victims receive a voice mail or an automated call from the impersonator asking them to urgently call back a fake IRS telephone number. Upon calling, the victim is told by the purported IRS agent that they have a tax problem and that legal proceedings or an arrest warrant have been issued against the taxpayer. The impersonator then offers to deal with the situation and asks for the victim’s SSN and personal information with the excuse of verifying their identity.
What you should do
If you find yourself the recipient of such a call the IRS recommends the following:
- Never give out your personal information.
- Always ask for the IRS agents name and IRS identification number.
- Do not stay silent, report the scams to the IRS. Go to irs.gov and on the search box type “scam.” You can also report the calls at +1-800-366-4484.
The IRS has issued constant warnings to taxpayers with hopes of raising awareness of these crimes, in efforts to reduce the number of victims affected. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has reiterated that the IRS will never make unsolicited telephone calls without first issuing a notice, will never demand immediate payment over the telephone, will not request credit or debit card details over the telephone, and will never threaten to have someone arrested or deported for failure to pay taxes.
Although the chances of being the victim of such scams are relatively small, especially for taxpayers living outside of the US, it is still important to exercise caution when dealing with inquiries concerning your tax and social security data. Read more about other scams and how to differentiate scam artists from the IRS.
If you are concerned about your taxes, feel free to contact us.