Scammers Still in Business

IRS, security | May 16, 2016 | By Bob Williams

phone scams

Federal agents have made strides in prosecuting rings of scammers over the last two years. These crooks pose as IRS agents in an effort to scare taxpayers into making an immediate payment over the phone to satisfy a bogus tax debt.

Unfortunately, bad guys are still in business, despite successful arrests and prosecutions. And the IRS is alerting taxpayers that if they get a phone call from these crooks, their best defense is to just hang up.

The Telephone Scam

This racket features aggressive and threatening telephone calls from scammers impersonating IRS agents. They threaten the taxpayer with police arrest, deportation, license revocation – and more. They often demand immediate payment of supposed back taxes (the taxpayer often doesn’t owe back taxes) on a prepaid debit card or by immediate wire transfer.

Keep in mind that the IRS – the real IRS – will never call you to demand money without first sending you a letter outlining what you owe, and why. The IRS will never threaten to have you arrested if you do not pay immediately. You’ll never be required by the real IRS to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card. And you’ll never get a demand that you pay taxes from a real IRS agent without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

The ‘Other’ Telephone Scam

This little charade uses a twist of the original scam, with the scammers calling under the guise of verifying income tax information over the phone, using the current tax filing system as the hook. The crooks will call a taxpayer, saying they’re from the IRS and received their return, but need to verify some of the information in order to process it.

Wrong.

Never give your personal information – especially your Social Security Number – over the phone (unless YOU make the call). And this extends to your bank routing and account numbers, or credit card numbers.

The Email Scam

This is a new email scam that hopes to fool taxpayers into giving up their personal information. Their emails appear to come from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a volunteer board that advises the IRS on issues affecting taxpayers. But do not respond to the emails or click the links in them. If you get one of these emails that claim to be from TAP and want you to “verify” personal information, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in all kinds of phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season.

Phishing emails are designed to trick you into thinking the message is an official communication from the IRS, or even others in the income tax industry – such as tax software companies. They may ask you to supply personal information related to refunds, your filing status, ordering transcripts or verifying your PIN information.

The IRS has even seen variations on this theme being used in text messages, and these communications are being reported nationwide.

Taxpayers should keep in mind that anything they enter on these bogus sites – such as phone numbers, Social Security Numbers, addresses or other personal information – can be used by the scammers to file a bogus income tax return.

Adding insult to injury, these phishing sites and emails may carry malware, which can infect a taxpayer’s computer and allow the scammers to access your files, or track keystrokes to gain information.

If you suspect an email is pointing you to a bogus website, or is trying to get your personal information illegally, forward the email to phishing@IRS.gov, then delete it.

You can also check out the IRS Report Phishing web page for more information.