Tech Tip: Beware! It’s Tax Scam Season

This week’s Tech Tip, submitted by Chief Information Officer Marc Elliott, is the first in a series focusing on tax scams that become more rampant during tax season.

Spring is around the corner, meaning it’s that time again —Tax Scam Season! As many of us know, tax scams are ramping up in volume and sophistication, so please take a moment and learn about the scams the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning U.S. citizens about the most.

In this week’s blog post, I will focus on the  IRS Impersonation Telephone Scam.

In this scenario, taxpayers are targeted by scammers impersonating IRS agents attempting to collect on owed taxes. The scammers provide fake IRS badge numbers to appear official, fake their caller IDs to look like an IRS phone number and use aggressive tactics to scare their targets into compliance. Additionally, they often research their targets to learn as much publicly available personal information as possible to seem “official.”

The fake IRS agents tell the taxpayer that they owe the IRS money and that they must pay immediately under threat of arrest, jail time, deportation (immigrants are heavily targeted) and/or suspension of a business license. Most often they want the target to pay using a preloaded debit card or wire transfer.

Conversely, scammers will sometimes tell targets that they have an unclaimed refund. They try and talk the taxpayer into providing personal information to “claim” the refund. Such information could include: social security number, driver’s license number, birthdate, bank account and credit card numbers.

It is important to know that the IRS and its agents will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you receive a phone call like this and:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1 (800) 829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1 (800) 366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.