Filing season has just begun, and scammers are already trying to make life miserable for everyone else. While this isn’t a shocking turn for anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of identity theft tax refund fraud, it’s a problem that everyone needs to be aware of nonetheless.
This week, the Internal Revenue Service is warning that identity thieves are posing as IRS agents in a wide range of scam phone calls. According to the agency, criminals are “posing as IRS agents in hopes of stealing taxpayer money or personal information.”
How will I know if a phone call from “the IRS” is actually a scam?
Identity thieves generally try to create a sense of urgency when they contact you. Their strategy is to put you in a state of fear or anxiety through threats or by offering deals that sound too good to be true. If these criminals set the hook, you might not realize it’s a scam until it’s too late. That’s why you and your clients must become familiar with the common types of bait in the phishing tackle box.
The IRS lists four things their agents will never do when contacting taxpayers:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. 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 taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Call unexpectedly about a tax refund.
While specifically cited concerning phishing calls, these tactics are also common in phishing emails and social media scams.
What should I do if I receive a tax-related scam phone call?
If you or a client receives one of these phone calls, the IRS says step one is to write down the number and hang up. Remember, some fraudsters use what you say during one of these calls to start building a profile that they refine for future scams—in other words, do not try to emulate that TED Talk. (Though watching it is admittedly a fun way to spend ten minutes!)
Next, the agency says to report the phone call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and the IRS. That involves contacting TIGTA through their “Report a Crime or IRS Employee Misconduct” page or calling 800.366.4484, then sending an email containing the suspicious phone number—subject: “IRS Phone Scam”—to Phishing@IRS.gov.
The IRS closes their Tax Tip with links to two important tax-related scam resources:
Also, be sure to check out the “Security Summit” page on IRS.gov.
Source: Tax Tip 2022-15