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Tax Season Approaches, Scams Follow

Consumer Affairs recently wrote an article about new tax-based scams hitting consumers. As it goes, among the most lucrative areas for con men and scam artists is the federal income tax season. And as usual, there’s an array of evolving tax scams related to identity theft and refund fraud.

“Whether it’s during the holidays or the approach of tax season, scam artists look for ways to use tax agencies and the tax industry to trick and confuse people,” said Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen. “There are warning signs to these scams people should watch out for, and simple steps to avoid being duped into giving these criminals money, sensitive financial information or access to computers.”

The leading scams

  • Requesting fake tax payments: The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.”
  • Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax”: If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
  • Sending a fraudulent IRS bill for tax year 2015 related to the Affordable Care Act: Generally, this scam involves an email or letter that includes fake CP2000 notices that include a payment request to be sent to a Post Office Box address.
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals: In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including Social Security numbers.

Spotting the scam

Keep in mind that the IRS will NEVER:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer or initiate contact by e-mail or text message. 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.

What to do

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Search the web for telephone numbers that scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

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