This summer has seen an uptick in IRS scam calls, and an evolution of strategies from the scammers themselves. We have received many calls and e-mails attempting to verify whether or not a call is legitimate, and most have unfortunately been fraudulent.
On August 2nd, the IRS released a bulletin in which Commissioner John Koskinen said, “Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics.”
It can be hard to know what signs to look for, especially when the fake calls threaten to arrest, deport, or revoke the driver’s license of the victim, should they not agree to pay. These calls usually claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken, playing on the anxieties of the victim, and making these scams especially cruel.
In days past, these calls would come from a live person, but an increasing trend is using “robo-calls,” in which scammers leave urgent call back demands telling taxpayers to resolve their “tax bill.” Scammers are using automated calls to a greater extent in order to reach the most potential victims.
The most recent trend seems to be IRS impersonators demanding payments on gift cards, specifically iTunes. Since these calls can take many forms and the strategies are regularly evolving, knowing the telltale signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.
In the IRS’s August 2nd bulletin, they include examples of various tactics seen this year:
- Insisting on payment for “Federal Student Tax.”
- Requesting payment on taxes owed through gift cards, iTunes or otherwise.
- Requesting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals.
- “Verifying” or requesting tax return information over the phone.
- Impersonating a tax preparer.
It is worth noting that the IRS will never:
- Call about taxes owed without previously having mailed a bill.
- Demand immediate payment over the phone.
- Immediately threaten to involve law enforcement over a debt.
- Demand you pay taxes without giving you a chance to appeal the amount you owe.
- Require a specific payment method to be used (wire transfer, gift card, prepaid debit card, etc.).
- Request credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you receive one of these calls, the best thing to do is hang up without providing any information to the caller. If you would like to go the extra mile and report the call you can contact TIGTA using their scam reporting page or by calling 800-366-4484. You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission by using the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov – adding “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
If you still find yourself in doubt of the validity of a call, the best strategy is to hang up and to call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040, especially if you think you still may owe tax.