Author: Catherine M. Miskiv, CPA
Statistics show that phishing has become rampant and, based on the number of calls we receive from clients, the scammers are very good at impersonating the taxing authorities.
This past year we saw a significant increase in incidences where clients get telephone calls from people claiming to be the IRS or state taxing authorities. These people are extremely aggressive and intimidating, often threatening to send the police over to arrest or deport the intended victim. These scammers are good – when they call you, the caller ID will often show an official looking name, such as “Department of Taxation” or “Internal Revenue” and the caller will even give you a fake badge number.
There have also been reports of telephone scammers who, if you give them a hard time, will claim that they are going to hang up and call the police. And then you will immediately receive a phone call that comes up on your caller ID as some form of law enforcement agency. It’s all part of the ruse.
Other people have received emails that appear to be from the IRS or the state taxing authorities asking for additional information. Again, these emails seem to be official, usually with IRS letterhead or other seemingly official documents attached.
These people are professionals who prey on your fears. And they do it well, to the tune of $23 million since 2013! Unsuspecting people have been scammed in every state; and the scams have hit people of every age, nationality and socio-economic background.
Here are some general tips from the IRS website:
- The IRS (and other taxing authorities) will not call you or email to demand payment or to discuss your tax return. You will always receive a bill or notice in the mail first, and those will be followed by second notices just in case you missed the first one.
- They will not demand that you make payment in a specific way,for example by prepaid debit card or by electronic funds transfer. They will not ask for your credit card information over the phone.
- The IRS (and other taxing authorities) will not threaten to arrest you. Even if you legitimately owe money, they will work with you.
Your best bet would be to hang up immediately if you receive one of these calls. Even something as seemingly general as your birth date or address could be the one piece of missing information the scammer needs to get access to your information. Just get off the phone – and being polite about it is not necessary!
If you wish to report the call or the email, there are several options:
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 or use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Web Page”.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on the FTC.gov website. Reference “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- File a complaint with your local law enforcement agency.
- Call your state Division of Consumer Affairs.
There is not much that can be done about these scammers .The phone numbers are easily disconnected and replaced with new ones. Email addresses can be changed at will. So tracking these scammers down is no easy task. Often, the perpetrators are not even in the United States. The best bet is for you, our valued clients, to be educated and aware.
Click here if you wish to read more about tax scams and see a list of the 2015 most common scams, called the “Dirty Dozen”.
And, please remember, if you do get anything in the mail from the IRS or the state taxing authorities, forward it to your tax preparer immediately. He/she will research the issue and reply on your behalf.