Tax season is upon us — and for some this may also mean being targeted by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposters phishing for personal and financial information. Here are a couple of recent ways scammers have been targeting consumers and a few tips for protecting yourself:
IRS Phishing Scams
The IRS has issued several consumer warnings about the fraudulent use of the IRS name and logo by scammers attempting to gain access to personal financial information. Scammers may reach out to unsuspecting consumers by mail, telephone, text, fax or, most commonly, email to set up their victims by stating that there is an issue with their tax return or that they may be entitled to a larger refund than they were expecting. Their goal is always to trick the consumer into releasing personal and financial information as possible, which they can then use to commit fraud or identity theft.
Email variations of this scam may also include harmful attachments or links claiming to be from the IRS. Clicking on the link or attachment may deploy a malicious virus onto your computer that can collect and send personal information back to the scammer.
The IRS cautions that they do not initiate taxpayer communications by email and any unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at email@example.com.
Telephone Tax Payment Scam
This aggressive and sophisticated phone scam involves scammers contacting random consumers by phone claiming to be employees of the IRS. They use fake names, bogus IRS identification badge numbers and may even alter the caller ID to make it appear as though they are actually calling from an IRS center.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly by pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting to the victim.
5 Things Scammers Do that the IRS Will Not
The IRS cautions that they do not initiate taxpayer communications by email or through social media. The following are five things scammers may contact you about that the IRS will not – tell-tale signs that the communication you received is likely fake. The IRS does not:
1) Demand immediate payment, nor will the agency contact you about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
2) Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
3) Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer;
4) Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
5) Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
What to do if you are notifed by someone claiming to be from the IRS that is asking for money or sensitive information:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS staff 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.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you give out any personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited communication from the IRS, be sure to notify your financial institutions and law enforcement immediately so that they can assist you with protecting your accounts and your identity.