Personal and pivotal perspectives on timely topics, written by our professionals.
By James Bohannon
There's no worse feeling than when you discover you have been the victim of fraud. Every year, however, that's exactly what happens to thousands of people around the country in the months approaching the April tax filing deadline. Tax scams, often involving a phone call from someone claiming to be an Internal Revenue Service Agent, flood the United States with alarming frequency.
Just last year, I personally received a phone call from one of these alleged "IRS agents", who informed me that due to an error on my 2014 tax return, I owed them $2,534.67 and if I didn't pay, a warrant would be issued for my arrest. My first reaction was one of excitement, as this person had no clue that I deal with the IRS regularly in my capacity as a tax professional. Suffice it to say, I had a little fun with this person which culminated with a prompt disconnection once I revealed I was well aware of the scam she was trying to run on me. But many Americans are unaware of the warning signs they should be looking for when someone’s trying to scam them.
According to the IRS, if you ever receive a call, unsolicited email, or text message from someone claiming to be from the IRS, the following is a list of red flags and indicators that the communication is fraudulent:
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a pre-paid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer or initiate contact by email or text message. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you do receive a call from someone you suspect is impersonating an IRS agent and soliciting money, the following are the actions you should take:
- Do not give them any of your personal information and hang up immediately.
- If they leave you a voicemail containing a call back number, try searching the internet for phone numbers known to be used by scammers.
- Contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) to report the call, using either their "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" web page or phone number (800-366-4484).
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) using the "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov and add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
- If you think you may owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
- Suspicious emails can be reported by forwarding them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't be another victim of this activity. Follow these tips to protect yourself and your personal information from scammers.
As seen in “ADVANCE RELEASE Documents, IR-2016-164, Internal Revenue Service, (Dec. 9, 2016)” ©2017 CCH Incorporated and its affiliates and licensors. All rights reserved.