Editor’s Note: The below information is from a recent IRS “News Alert.” Click here to view the original alert on the IRS’s website.
Every tax season the IRS issues warnings about common scams and fraud schemes. What should you be on the lookout for this year? Take a look…
Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use snail mail, telephone and email to prey on individuals, businesses and payroll and tax professionals. (Remember: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.)
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer.
Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due in order to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
4 Things the IRS Does Not Do:
- 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 you a bill if you owe any taxes.)
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Scams Targeting Tax Professions
Increasingly, tax professionals are being targeted by identity theft. Tax professionals may be unaware a client is a victim of identity theft until they attempt to file the tax return and it is rejected as a duplicate return.
4 Notices You Might Get if You're a Victim of Tax Fraud:
- More than one tax return filed using the client’s SSN.
- A balance due, refund offset or collection action taken for a year in which no return was filed.
- IRS or state records indicate the client received wages from an unknown employer.
- An amended tax return, fictitious employees or about a defunct, closed or dormant business (for business clients).
For more information, see the below IRS alerts:
- Bogus email asks tax professionals to update their IRS e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs)
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send email messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal victims’ identity.
The IRS has issued several alerts about fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets.
- Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, and verifying PIN information.
- Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. The IRS doesn’t require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. More information on this scam.
- Email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” These emails are not from the IRS.
What if you get a fraudulent email? Unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at email@example.com. For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing web page.
Fraudsters Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
Some taxpayers receive emails that appear to be from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, trying to trick victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click any link. If you receive this scam, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and note that it seems to be a scam phishing for your information.
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information.