IRS Helps Taxpayers Identify Tax-Related Fraud

The IRS released a tax tip just in time for the long Independence Day weekend. In the press release, the agency lists tips for spotting identity theft tax refund fraud (IDTTRF). Since tax scams can take many forms, the IRS broke them down into two categories: “phone scams” and “email phishing scams.”  

How can I tell if it’s a phone scam?

When it comes to phone scams, the first thing the IRS points out is that they won’t “leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages.” Scammers bank on the average taxpayer being afraid of the IRS, leveraging that fear and mistrust to convince victims to hand over personally identifiable information (PII) or money.

The threats often include telling victims that failing to comply with the demands will result in being jailed or deported—one scam even promises to cancel the victim’s Social Security Number. To make things more confusing, the IRS said fraudsters are able to make caller ID display any number they want—even official IRS phone numbers.

How can I tell if it’s an email phishing scam?

If your first communication from the IRS is an email, you should probably be suspicious. According to the IRS, they will never “initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.” Instead, the agency will usually send a physical letter for notification, though, on occasion, they will “call or come to a home or business.”

The tactics for email scams are almost identical to phone scams—threats, information or payment demands, and the like—except that it can be even easier to trick victims. Scammers often put links in their emails that contain malware or send victims to fake government websites. With one click, a victim might inadvertently download a virus that tracks everything they type, even usernames and passwords.  

What should I do if I’m targeted by a phone scam?

The IRS ended the press release with tips for dealing with a suspected phone scam, separating their advice into two basic categories: taxpayers don’t owe tax and taxpayers who do.

Taxpayers who are confident that they do not owe any tax should start by hanging up the phone and promptly reporting it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Federal Trade Commission, and [email protected]. Those who do (or could) owe tax will need to “call the number on any billing notice they receive or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.”

To read all of the tips for avoiding phone and email scams, check out IRS Tax Tip 2019-87.

Source: Tax Tip 2019-87  

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