Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again
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IR-2016-40, March 14, 2016
WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals
impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the
IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of
verifying tax return information over the phone.
The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play
off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax
return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your
return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such
as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as
bank numbers or credit cards.
“These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch
people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns,” said
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be
calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax
information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate
The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games
that continually change. The IRS, the states and the tax industry came
together in 2015 and launched a public awareness campaign called Taxes.
Security. Together. to help educate taxpayers about the need to
maintain security online and to recognize and avoid “phishing” and
The IRS continues to hear reports of phone scams as well as e-mail
phishing schemes across the country.
“These schemes touch people in every part of the country and in
every walk of life. It’s a growing list of people who’ve encountered
these. I’ve even gotten these calls myself,” Koskinen said.
This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 phone scam
contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims
who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.
Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in phishing
Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They
demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into
sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,”
or via a phishing
email. They’ve even begun politely asking taxpayers to verify
their identity over the phone.
Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into
paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license
of their victim if they don’t get the money.
Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS
or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge
numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address
and other personal information to make the call sound official.
Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do.
Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
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 e-mail.
- 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
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS
Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use
Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please 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.
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen
any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax
Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should
be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer
Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect
them on IRS.gov.
Source: IRS webs site