Just how deep and wide is the problem of IRS tax scams? Here’s one, recently detailed in the New York Times: From 2012-2016, a sophisticated international ring of scammers, posing as Internal Revenue Service or immigration officials, were calling victims with threats of arrest, deportation, or other penalties if they did not immediately pay their tax debts with prepaid cards or wire transfers.
In 2018, 21 conspirators were indicted for their roles in the scam in which 15,000 victims lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and more than 50,000 individuals had their personal information misused.
Old, new or tweaked, tax scams are still succeeding. In the spirit of being watchful, and watching out for each other, let’s review the top IRS scams.
Old, New, and Tweaked
Social Security Number scams: A caller claims to be able to suspend or cancel your SSN, and demands you return their robocall voicemail. Even if they mention overdue taxes, and claim they can suspend your SSN for an unpaid tax bill, just hang up.
Email phishing scams: You get an email with a subject line like “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax Return Reminder.” It has links to an IRS.gov-like website that allegedly provides information about your refund, electronic return, or tax account. They include a “temporary password” or “one-time password” to “access” the files. Don’t click those links, they are malicious files. The IRS does not email requests for personal or financial information, will not send unsolicited emails, and never emails taxpayers about your refund status.
Phone scams: The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages about arrests, law enforcement intervention, deportation, or license revocations. Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers, including from an IRS office. They also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state DMVs, federal agencies, and others. They are not real. Hang up.
What the IRS will never do
Protecting yourself and your company starts with knowing what the IRS would never demand from you. Generally speaking, the IRS will first mail a bill to a taxpayer who owes money, allowing for questions or a formal appeal. Additionally, the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card or wire transfer.
- Threaten to bring in the police, immigration officers, or other law enforcement authorities, or revoke licenses or immigration status over the phone or by email.
- Ask you to make a payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury.
- Demand taxes be paid without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Send unsolicited emails.
I hope you’ll share these important reminders with your team and with any other potentially vulnerable member of your family. Remember, the bad guys are everywhere and will do whatever they can to evolve their scams and not get caught. No matter their approach, if it feels wrong, it is wrong! You have options for tax concerns and it’s best to speak with a trusted professional about them, not call or email back someone you don’t know.