Tax filing related scams are at all-time high and we are warning our clients about some specific fact patterns and known risks. These criminal scams take many forms including mail, phone, email and now even social media and texts. Phone calls and email still seem to make up the bulk of the attempts, make sure you’ve reviewed the basic computer security tips I’ve previously provided as your first line of defense.
The IRS warns taxpayers to be alert for e-mail scams that use the IRS name and logos. These malicious emails take many forms, some demand payments while others promise refunds or request information on you or about a payment you made in the past. They primarily want your name, social security number bank account numbers and other identifying details they need to do anything from printing fake checks on your account to taking control of it or even filing a false return and collecting a refund in your name.
The IRS has explicitly stated that they will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, texting or any social media. Please forward suspected fraudulent e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Never open attachments or click on links in suspect e-mails. Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes winner) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
Fake Phone Calls
Another aggressive scam currently operating (just one of many) that uses several callers including an initial agent and then an angry “supervisor” that calls and demands immediate payment to avoid threats ranging from arrest to deportation. They have scammed people in every state and continue to operate from variety of area codes but many calls use numbers with D.C. and Virginia area codes. I actually asked a number of people to send me the numbers from the calls in the past, they were all from the same three numbers and simply entering the numbers in Google brought up many identical fraud complaints about each one.
J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration, warns us that this scam has already taken $14 Million from the thousands of taxpayers that have actually reported it; many more likely have not. George cautions that the scam continues to grow, “It is critical that all taxpayers continue to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS employees. This scam, which is international in nature, has proven to be the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen. The callers are aggressive, they are relentless and they are ruthless,” he said. “Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash.”
The IRS website and various govt. press releases state that usually first contacts people by mail, not by phone, about unpaid taxes and the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
The callers who commit this fraud often:
- Utilize an automated robocall machine.
- Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
- May know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
- Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
- Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
- Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.Reporting Scam Attempts (And Hopefully Not) Your Own Fraud Or LossThe IRS itself provides substantial guidance on this issues and even has a form you can complete on line if you’ve already been defrauded.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:
- If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
- If you don’t owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.treasury.gov/tigta or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.Many of these scams target older people, those that may be newer to the United States or simply less experienced with computers or tax filing procedures. Watch out for your friends and family who may fall into any of those categories and share this with them.
This article originally appeared in another form at www.PhysiciansPractice.com, where attorney Ike Devji has over 175 bylines on asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation.