Although the April filing deadline has passed, scam artists remain hard at work. The IRS today urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of evolving phishing emails and telephone scams.
The IRS is seeing signs of two new variations of tax-related scams. One involves social security numbers related to tax issues and another threatens people with a tax bill from a fictional government agency. Here are some details:
- The SSN hustle: The latest twist includes scammers claiming to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s social security number. In this variation, the social security cancellation threat scam is similar to and often associated with the IRS impersonation scam. It is yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN.
- Fake tax agency: This scheme involves the mailing of a letter threatening an IRS lien or levy. The lien or levy is based on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency: “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” The lien notification scam also likely references the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a legitimate organization.
Some things to keep in mind:
The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many variations of the phone scam, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other verbal threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.
Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be from anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS will initiate contact through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances when the IRS will call or come to a home or business. These visits include times when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return, a delinquent employment tax payment, or the IRS needs to tour a business as part of a civil investigation (such as an audit or collection case) or during criminal investigation.
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending it to email@example.com. Find complete details at https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing.
More telltale signs of a scam; the IRS and its authorized private collection agencieswill never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.
If you feel you are on a fraudulent IRS call:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. You can also use the IRS impersonation scam reportingweb page: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
- Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org(subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC complaint assistantat FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For more information, visit the tax scams and consumer alertspage on IRS.gov. Additional information is also available on IRS social media sites and YouTube.
Constant W. Watson III, CPA, CTRS, is a certified public accountant and one of only ten certified tax resolution specialists in the state of Illinois certified by the ASTPS. Watson has more than 30 years of income tax and accounting experience. You can hear his radio program, “Watson On Taxes,” every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. by tuning in to AM 1390. For more information, visit WatsonOnTaxes.com or call (708) 206-9900.