IRS Tax Scams
IRS scams are on the rise everywhere. It’s important for taxpayers to be aware of some of the common methods used by the scammers so that you can avoid and take precautions. The majority of IRS Tax scams are in the form of an e-mail or phone call, neither of which the IRS uses as a standard form of communication and typically never as a form of initial contact. The IRS generally will always initiate communication via a notice that is mailed to your address of record. Falling victim to tax scams can be extremely costly not only financially, but also in time and aggravation to clean up the mess left in its wake.
Phone Tax Scams
TIGTA (the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) calls this the most common IRS scam. Victims generally are lured into providing confidential information, typically their social security number and other identifying information by promises of a refund that must be claimed or an impending action (such as lien, levy, arrest, etc.).
Again the IRS always sends a written notice at the start of any communication and would never contact you by phone with such a demand or promise.
Don’t get fooled by IRS tax scams. Always hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or 267-941-1000 (if overseas) for confirmation or call us at Tax Samaritan for help. If you have been targeted by a scam, please report your incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484 and provide as much information as you can about the caller (name, phone number, etc.) and perhaps prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
Email Tax Scams
Like phone tax scams, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, texting or any social media. The lures are the same and perhaps even more dangerous because they can look very real and they may take you to web pages that look just like IRS versions where they capture your confidential information including login information, social security numbers and passwords to boot. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov, though notably, not IRS.gov (IRS-dot-gov). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not coming from the IRS.
If you receive a suspicious email, it is critical that you do not open or click on any links contained in the message. Rather, you should forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beware of sophisticated phone tax scams that try to separate you from your hard earned money.
Victims of these increasingly bold tax scams are contacted by phone and told that they owe the IRS money immediately. If the victims seem reluctant, the scammers threaten the taxpayers with arrest, suspension of drivers or business license or even deportation. The caller becomes increasingly aggressive, even hostile and insulting.
Sometimes these callers will say that you have a refund due in order to trick you into revealing your private information. They can even alter the caller ID to make it appear as though the IRS is actually calling.
If you are called by someone on the phone claiming to be from the IRS, tell them that you are represented by an enrolled agent. Give them the name and contact information of your enrolled agent and nothing more.
The reason these tax scams continue is because they are successful. The reason that they are so successful is that the scammer is very convincing. The IRS will never ask for a wire transfer or credit card numbers over the phone. As a matter of fact, your first contact with the IRS will almost never be by the phone or email. You will usually receive numerous correspondences through the US postal service before the IRS uses alternative means to contact you.
In truth, the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text, Facebook, or any kind of electronic means to request personal or financial information. And if the caller is asking for information on your bank or credit card accounts, or for PINs or passwords, you can bet he or she is NOT calling from the IRS!
The IRS has developed a list of common characteristics of these tax scams. They are as follows:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
- Scammers will spoof the IRS toll-free number on the caller ID to make it appear it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call center.
- After threatening victims with jail time or drivers license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you receive a call from one of these phony IRS tax scammers, remember, tell the caller that you are represented by an enrolled agent and give them my name and contact information. You should then get off the phone and let me about the situation as soon as possible.
At Tax Samaritan, we hope that this information will help you from being a victim of IRS tax scams and help others that you know.
Our goal at Tax Samaritan is to provide the best counsel, advocacy and personal service for our clients. We are not only tax preparation and representation experts, but strive to become valued business partners. Tax Samaritan is committed to understanding our client’s unique needs; every tax situation is different and requires a personal approach in providing realistic and effective solutions.
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Tax Samaritan is a team of Enrolled Agents with over 25 years of experience focusing on US tax preparation and representation. We maintain this tax blog where all articles are written by Enrolled Agents. Our main objective is to educate US taxpayers on their tax responsibilities and the selection of a tax professional. Our articles are also designed to help taxpayers looking to self prepare, providing specific tips and pitfalls to avoid.
When looking for a tax professional, choose carefully. We recommend that you hire a credentialed tax professional such as Tax Samaritan that is an Enrolled Agent (America’s Tax Experts). If you are a US taxpayer overseas, we further recommend that you seek a professional who is experienced in expat tax preparation, like Tax Samaritan (most tax professionals have limited to no experience with the unique tax issues of expat taxpayers).
Randall Brody is an enrolled agent, licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. To attain the enrolled agent designation, candidates must demonstrate expertise in taxation, fulfill continuing education credits and adhere to a stringent code of ethics.
Every effort has been taken to provide the most accurate and honest analysis of the tax information provided in this blog. Please use your discretion before making any decisions based on the information provided. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for seeking professional tax advice based on your individual needs.