Tax season scams are cited in annual IRS warning
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be an agent from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanding money, do not fall for it. It is one of the top threats the IRS is warning consumers about in its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season.
The IRS said it has seen a surge in phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation and license revocation.
"If you receive an aggressive or threatening phone call demanding money, that's not the IRS," said Patricia Svarnas, IRS spokesperson for New York and New Jersey. "That's not how we do business. You would not be receiving a first point of contact from us over the phone, and we certainly don't demand money on the spot."
In most cases, the IRS makes its first point of contact with taxpayers through the mail. The agency also never requires taxpayers to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, nor does it demand payment without giving taxpayers the opportunity to appeal the amount owed.
Since October 2013, nearly 3,000 victims have paid over $14 million as a result of phone scams, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Taxpayers that have been targeted by a phone scam can report the incident to TIGTA by calling 800-366-4484 or clicking here.
Another popular scam on the "Dirty Dozen" list is phishing.
Phishing is typically carried out with the help of an unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate IRS website.
"They try to lure victims in by asking them to provide their valuable information, and using that a criminal can then commit identity theft or financial theft," Svarnas said. "We will not send emails out of the blue regarding a tax bill or a refund."
If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, report it by sending it to email@example.com.
Identity theft is another major concern that taxpayers need to be aware of.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer's stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent return.
The IRS continues to combat this problem by aggressively pursuing and prosecuting people that commit this crime. In fact, from 2011 through October 2014, the IRS has stopped 19 million suspicious returns and protected over $63 billion in fraudulent refunds.
The IRS recommends you take the following steps to prevent identity or financial theft:
- Protect your personal data
- Be wary of providing personal information over the phone or through email
- Only give social security number when you know it is necessary and legitimate
- Don't carry your social security card with you
- Check your credit report annually
- Review your social security earnings statement
- Protect your personal computer with anti-virus protection
For more information on identity theft, click here.
Other scams on this year's "Dirty Dozen" list include: hiding money or income offshore, groups pretending to be a charitable organization in an effort to attract donations and return preparer fraud.
To learn more about the "Dirty Dozen" list of scams, click here. The full list will be available on Feb. 9.