April is a busy time of year for accountants, CPAs and anyone filing their taxes. Whether you filed by April 15 or requested an extension, remember that, according to the IRS, it’s also a busy time for scammers. Compiled annually, the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” list represents the worst of the worst tax scams. Consistently ranked on this list yearly are phone scams – calls from persons or organizations claiming to be representatives from the IRS. Typically, scam callers demand money, claiming you owe back taxes to the IRS. Other times they may say you are owed a refund and try to trick you into sharing private information. Either way, it’s a dangerous scheme to fall for, and being knowledgeable about the ways in which the IRS issues communication will help you avoid becoming a victim.
The IRS will never call you “out of the blue.” In the most recent iteration of the IRS phone impersonation scams, criminals will fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS that helps protect taxpayer rights. If you receive a call from the TAS out of nowhere, that’s a red flag. The TAS assists taxpayers with resolving IRS problems, and doesn’t initiate calls to taxpayers without being contacted for assistance first. The same goes for the IRS as a whole – they will not initiate phone calls to taxpayers without first having sent official correspondence via mail and will never call demanding immediate payment.
The IRS will never threaten to have you arrested for not paying taxes. Tax scams affect more than one-third of Americans, and some phone scams entail the caller threatening to have the police come and arrest the taxpayer. This is a telltale sign of a scam, as the IRS does not demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
The IRS never asks for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Phone scam con artists are adept at sounding convincing when they call – they may seem to know a lot about you and your taxes. However, the IRS has formal systems in place for dealing with tax issues, and do not request that sensitive information be given over the phone.
If you don’t believe you owe taxes and have received a suspicious phone call from the IRS, you can report fraudulent calls to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam.” You can also report incidents to the Federal Trade Commission. Staying vigilant this tax season could help you and others avoid future scams.