Phone and Email Scams: Is it REALLY the IRS?
Have you received a telephone call from someone claiming to be an IRS employee? This is a scam that has hit taxpayers in all 50 states. The callers tell the intended victims that they owe taxes and must pay immediately using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The victims are threatened with criminal charges, arrest, deportation, or loss of a driver’s license. Some of the callers can be quite aggressive and frightening.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of approximately 736,000 contacts by scammers since October 2013. The Inspector General’s office also estimates that approximately 4,550 victims have collectively paid more than $23 million to the scammers.
What can you do to protect yourself? First of all, know that the IRS generally first contacts taxpayers by mail, not by phone. They will never ask for payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, and will never ask for a credit card number over the phone. If you receive one of these phone calls, just hang up (even if the caller ID appears as if it is the IRS calling – another part of the scam). As always, never, ever give out personal information to someone who has called you.
Other things to do if you receive a scam call:
If you do owe Federal taxes, or think you might, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees will be able to assist you.
If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on the Treasury Inspector General’s website, or call 800-366-4484.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Fortunately, progress is being made to stop scamming operations. On October 6, 2016, it was reported that 200 police officers raided nine locations in Mumbai, India that were call centers for these IRS scam calls to the U.S. Seventy people have been arrested and another 630 are being investigated. Prosecution should not be difficult since the calls were recorded, and the police recovered 851 hard disks with the recordings.
Scammers are also using e-mail to find victims. On September 29, IRS issued a warning that scammers are sending a fraudulent version of IRS Form CP2000, which is sent to a taxpayer when income reported by a third-party (such as the taxpayer’s employer) does not match the income reported on the taxpayer’s return. The notice includes a payment request that the recipient mail a check made out to “I.R.S.” to the “Austin Processing Center” at a post office box address. There is also a “payment” link within the e-mail.
The CP2000 form is mailed to taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS does not request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or social media. Do not open any attachments or click on any links in these e-mails. Instead, forward the e-mail to email@example.com.
Most people are nervous about a contact from the IRS, but you can protect yourself against scammers that are playing on this fear – just hang up or hit “Delete”!
Scammers often target older, retired people who are less familiar with fraudulent behaviors on the Internet or via phone calls. If you have an elderly relative or friend, you should reach out to make sure they are aware of this IRS scam. Also, if you are worried that a relative is susceptible to monetary scams due to failing health, early Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disabilities, you might want to get a Power of Attorney so you can proactively protect their assets.