Tim’s Tax News on the Tenth - February 2017

IRS PHONE SCAMS A SERIOUS THREAT

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers.

During the tax filing season, the IRS generally sees a surge in scam phone calls that threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise at any time and pick up during tax season.

“Don’t be fooled by surprise phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents with threats or promises of a big refund if you provide them with your private information,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “If you’re surprised to get a call from the IRS, it almost certainly isn’t the real IRS. We generally initially contact taxpayers by mail.”

“Everyone can share the word about scam phone calls– just hang up and don’t engage these people,” Koskinen said. “Despite recent successes against phone scam artists, these scams constantly evolve and people need to remain vigilant. We’d like to thank law-enforcement, tax professionals, consumer advocates, the states, other government agencies, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and many others for helping us continue this fight and protect taxpayers.”

How do the scams work?

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit or gift card, like an iTunes card. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via a phishing email.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency, including local police, is calling. The callers use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • 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 the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For taxpayers who do not owe taxes or do not think they do: 

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Call 800-366-4484 to report the call or use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

If you would like more details, please do not hesitate to call our office. Our office has been successful in helping taxpayers with IRS and IDOR collection problems for over 25 years. If you have a tax or debt problem, please contact me at (847) 705-9698 or thughes@lavellelaw.com and find out how we can help you.

Lavelle Law, Ltd. is registered with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation as an approved continuing education provider for CPE for CPAs and Enrolled Agents. If your organization is seeking CPE courses in the area of Business Law, Innocent Spouse Relief, IRS Collections, Tax Scams (including ID Theft) or other areas in tax law that can be taught at your office, please contact me at thughes@lavellelaw.com.