IRS warns of latest phone scam

Each tax season, identity thieves find new ways to con honest taxpayers. This year is no different as the IRS warns about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile — apparently to instill fear.

Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, phone scammers sometimes call back trying a new strategy.

The following are common characteristics of this scam:

• 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 spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that 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 site.

• After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s 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 know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes — for example, you’ve never received a bill, or the caller made some bogus threats as described above — call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Find help. A taxpayer who believes they may have received a fraudulent or questionable communication related to taxes should contact a licensed tax professional. Enrolled agents(EAs) are America’s tax experts. They are the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. That means that if you get a letter from the IRS, or worse, are audited or are the target of a collection action, your EA can speak directly to the IRS on your behalf. Learn more at www.naea.org.

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