Receiving correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service is enough to incite anxiety and panic in most Americans, and now a group of unknown individuals is using this fear to trick people out of giving up personal financial information.
As tax season approaches, IRS officials are warning Americans about a new telephone scam that has become pervasive, in which scammers call impersonating the IRS and threaten police arrest, license revocation or, in the case of immigrants, deportation for failure to pay a tax bill. In order to quickly expedite the issue, the scammers then agree to take a variety of payment information over the phone - including credit and debit card transactions or wire transfer transactions - in order to "settle the balance."
"This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country," said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. "We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling."
The agency also released additional details of the scam. For instance, callers typically use fake, but common, names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves. Also, they may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number, according to statements from individuals. Lastly, scammers may call from a toll-free number meant to mimic an IRS line, and may also follow up a threatening call with additional correspondence from a fake police officer or DMV official to support the scammers' claims.
Legitimate correspondence from the IRS
Understanding the process through which the federal tax agency makes contact may help many unsuspecting Americans avoid falling victim to scams. It's important to note that the IRS will always make contact first via mail. They will never send emails or make phone calls in order to collect personal identifying details for individuals. Individuals who do receive communications through this method should not give up any personal data and report the correspondence to the agency immediately.
For legitimate forms of communication, taxpayers should also be aware that they may contact their tax preparer for more insight on how to proceed, discuss payment or account resolution options for certain tax scenarios and, in the case of audits, ask that their tax professional correspond directly with the federal agency.