“The IRS has filed a claim against you.”
The message, left on my parents’ answering machine last weekend, sounded computer-generated but official.
My mom, wise to the grifters of the world, wasn’t falling for it.
“That’s a scam,” she said when I played it. “Erase it.”
The ploy was just one of thousands made every day against honest Americans in an attempt to cheat them.
“The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things,” the Internal Revenue Service said in a Feb. 2 statement.
Unfortunately, they sometimes work.
Since October 2013 over 5,000 victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of scams, according to The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
“Throughout the year and in particular during tax season, scammers pose as IRS officials to try and steal not only your hard-earned money, but also your personal and financial information,” said Seattle-based IRS spokesman David Tucker.
Tucker said that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact by telephone, email or social media. A notice or letter will first be sent through the U.S. Postal Service.
“Don’t fall for these scams,” he said.
The most recent scam involves phony IRS agents calling under the guise of verifying tax return information. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details. Their goal is to get your personal information such as a Social Security number, bank numbers or credit cards.
Trying to catch scammers is difficult as they quickly cover their tracks.
I was looking forward to catching the scammers who targeted my parents but the Georgia-based phone number was no longer in service when I called it.
Avoiding Tax Scams
The IRS will never:
▪ Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
▪ Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
▪ Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
▪ Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
▪ Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
▪ Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or to verify your identity, here’s what you should do:
If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:
▪ Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
▪ Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
▪ Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
If you know you owe or think you may owe tax:
▪ Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.