Get Hooked by a Tax Scam
The IRS has made preventing identity theft
and tax refund fraud a top priority. An
important part of the agency's fraud prevention
program is its campaign to inform taxpayers
about the many varieties of tax fraud
and how taxpayers can keep from becoming
Telephone Fraud Scenario
this: You're relaxing at home when your
phone rings. You don't recognize the number
on the caller identification, but it's
from your area code, so you answer. "I'm
with the IRS," the caller says. "You
owe back taxes. A warrant will be issued
if you do not pay, and your local police
will arrest you."
caller knows your name and may even know
the last four digits of your social security
number. The caller tells you how much
you owe, and adds that this is a serious
matter. "You must submit a payment
voucher within the next hour to avoid
arrest. We suggest you buy a prepaid debit
caller gives you a phone number to call
once you have acquired a prepaid card
so you can settle your debt and the arrest
warrant can be canceled.
you identify four indicators in the above
scenario that tell you this call is a
are the tip-offs:
An unexpected phone call. The IRS makes
initial contact regarding tax issues in
a written letter, sent to you via U.S.
The threat of arrest. Warnings of arrest
or other police action are designed to
frighten you into agreeing to send money
or disclose personal financial information
such as your social security number. Local
police departments will not threaten to
arrest you for federal tax-related issues.
Request for immediate payment. If you
actually owe money for any type of federal
tax, payment options are available. You'll
receive notices in the mail detailing
the amount due and you'll have time to
Payment via prepaid debit card. The IRS
does not require you to purchase prepaid
cards to pay any tax you may owe, and
will not call to ask for personal identification
"red flags" seem obvious as
you read this. However, tax-related fraud
plays on your natural inclination to avoid
trouble with official agencies, and the
actual phone call will come from a practiced
con artist armed with a script and the
element of surprise. Under those circumstances,
your skepticism might take a back seat
to understandable confusion and fear.
can you protect yourself?
Advance warning gives you an advantage.
Being aware of tax fraud schemes makes
likely you'll recognize common techniques
used by fraudsters, such as threats, multiple
calls, and repeated demands for an immediate
Be assertive. You have no obligation to
answer your phone, engage in conversation,
or provide information to anyone who calls
you. Let contacts from unknown numbers
go to voicemail. If you do answer and
the caller's requests make you uncomfortable,
disconnecting immediately is neither rude
If you choose to contact the IRS directly
concerning the call, do not use the phone
number the caller gave you. Why? In this
latest scam, the number provided will
connect you with another con artist in
the same organization.
IRS E-mails and Websites
crooks create IRS e-mails and websites
that appear to be legitimate. They are
designed to look like genuine IRS communications,
but they are schemes designed to steal
example of these bogus e-mails: You receive
a message confirming IRS receipt of your
tax return, but the IRS needs more information
to process your return. The e-mail looks
official and completely legitimate. But
what the IRS wants you to know about bogus
The IRS does not initiate contact with
taxpayers by e-mail or social media to
request financial information.
The IRS never asks taxpayers for detailed
personal financial information.
The address of the official IRS website
is www.irs.gov; don't be misled by sites
claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com,
.net, .org, or anything else.
If you receive an e-mail claiming to be
from the IRS or directing you to an IRS
site, do not reply to the message, open
any attachments, or click on any links.
To help the IRS fight identity theft and
refund fraud, report any bogus correspondence
and forward any suspicious e-mail to phishing
of the newest scams is tax refund fraud.
Your personal data is stolen and used
to file a tax return in your name in order
to claim a refund. When you then file
your return, the IRS rejects it and notifies
you that you have already filed.
CBS News and 60 Minutes presented a segment
entitled "Biggest IRS Scam Around:
Identity Tax Refund Fraud".
the link to view the video:
IRS has developed a comprehensive identity
theft strategy that is focused on preventing,
detecting, and resolving identity theft
cases as soon as possible.
these scams proliferate during tax filing
season, they continue throughout the year
as the thieves continue to create new
ways to steal identities for financial
IRS has made numerous announcements in
the past to help protect taxpayers from
these scams. It repeats the message that
it never uses an e-mail, text message,
social media, or a phone call to initiate
a contact about your tax information.
if you receive what looks like an official
IRS e-mail, you should forward it to phishing
@ irs.gov. Do not reply to the sender,
and do not open any attachments. And if
you get a scam phone call, hang up.
let us know any time you're contacted
about your tax information. We're here
to keep you safe and informed.
Lawrence J. Ardito, CPA, ABV
George J. Toscano, Jr, CPA, MST
Roberta L. McCollum, CPA, MBA, MST