Recently scammers have been focusing on taxpayers. They find them as the low lying fruit and susceptible to deception. The reason being is that taxpayers often fear the IRS. The Treasure Inspector General for Tax Administration has received notice of over 736,000 attempts to scam taxpayers since October 2013. This has allegedly resulted into nearly 5,000 victims losing more than $23 million.
The most effective weapon against a scammer is knowledge. Below are five tips to help avoiding scammers:
(1) The IRS will never reach out to anyone via email. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, do not reply to the message, open any attachments or click any links. Forward the email as-is to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) The IRS will rarely contact anyone by phone. Many scammers are contacting taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials. It’s important to know that a call will not be the first form of contact for the IRS. First, the IRS will send you a letter or bill outlining any action you need to take. A call will rarely follow. Scammers often alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. If you receive a phone call from the IRS, take down the individual’s name and badge number, then call the IRS back at 800-829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate reason to contact you.
(3) The IRS will not demand immediate payment. The IRS will not demand “urgent” payment or apply excessive pressure for any outstanding payments. For example, some scammers threaten to arrest, deport or revoke your license if a payment is not made immediately. If you owe tax, the IRS gives you the right to question or appeal the amount you owe. Phone threats are not how they enforce the tax code.
(4) The IRS does not require you to pay a certain way. The IRS will not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Normally, scammers try to persuade the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
(5) The IRS does not ask for detailed personal information. This includes requests for PIN numbers and passwords or access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.