SCAM ALERT: This Tax Season, Just Hang Up
It’s tax season again, and we suggest you keep on red alert for tax scams that may be coming your way. In particular, we’re talking about a phone call you may receive claiming you owe money to the IRS. Here’s how the scam works:
- a scammer will call your phone and pretend to be an IRS agent;
- the caller will say you owe money for your taxes or insist they need to verify personal information for processing;
- the scammer will demand that you provide your social security number or payment information immediately in order to remedy any tax problems you may allegedly have.
Think you’ll be smart enough to not pick up on a phony call in the first place? If only it were that easy.
Scammer callers can be extremely convincing and aggressive, and they often use sneak tactics, such as spoofing that makes their caller ID appear as though it is a legitimate IRS office calling. If that doesn’t tempt you to answer, they’ll frequently leave authoritative messages that threaten the seizure of your home and other assets, lawsuits, and even jail time if the message isn’t returned ASAP. (More ways scammers pretend to be official can be found here.)
While impersonating the IRS by phone is no revolutionary form of fraudulence, the scam has remained in circulation for one reason: It’s extremely effective. So effective, in fact, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported that since 2013, more than 5,000 victims have lost collectively over $26.5 million to these scams. To protect yourself, it’s important to know this list of things the IRS will never do, published by the IRS itself. The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills
- Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or e-mail.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you do get a call from a scammer pretending to be the IRS, take our best advice: just hang up and contact the real IRS at 800-829-1040 if you have concerns about your taxes.