IRS Fraud Alert: Spot the Scam

Today’s posting, while on the lengthier side, is intended to serve as a reminder to remain aware of the potential dangers of IRS scams. There are bullet points listed below highlighting key takeaways as previously emphasized by the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General’s office and the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, as well as the video linked below.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General’s Office, individuals posing as IRS employees have targeted thousands of people by randomly calling taxpayers claiming that federal taxes are owed and must be paid immediately. The caller uses a fake name, IRS I.D. number and alters the caller ID to make it appear as though the call is originated from the IRS. The caller will insist that the taxpayer use a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer for payment. Should the taxpayer refuse, they are threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or license.

Another tactic includes callers advising taxpayers they are entitled to a refund and then requesting personal information to process payment. Sadly, victims have lost millions of dollars in tax refunds as a result of these telephone scams.

Please recognize the following:

  1. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment for any reason;
  2. The IRS will never call about taxes owed without first having mailed correspondence detailing their actions;
  3. The IRS will never demand an individual pay taxes without providing instructions on the appeal process that is afforded to all U.S. taxpayers;
  4. The IRS will never require an individual to use a specific payment method;
  5. The IRS will never ask for credit or debit card numbers;
  6. The IRS will never threaten to utilize local police or other law; enforcement groups to support their cause.

Identity theft/refund fraud:

Tax related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Generally, the identity thief will use your SSN to file a false return early in the year. You will be unaware you are a victim until you try to file your taxes and learn one already has been filed using your SSN.

♦ Know the warning signs: Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that:

• More than one tax return was filed using your SSN;

• You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;

• IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

♦ Steps to take if you become a victim:

• File a report with law enforcement;

• Report identity theft at: www.ftc.gov/complaint and learn how to respond to it at www.identitytheft.gov;

• Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your credit records (Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 – www.equifax.com; Experian: 1-88-397-3742 – www.experian.com; TransUnion: 1-8000-680-7289- www.transunion.com);

• Contact your financial institutions and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with;

• Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.

If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, take these additional steps:

  1. Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided;
  2. Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form available at IRS.gov, print it, then mail or fax according to instructions;
  3. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact the Identity Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. There are teams available to assist you.

♦ Ways to reduce your risk:

  1. Don’t routinely carry your SS card or any document with your SSN on it.
  2. Don’t give a business your SSN because they ask – only when absolutely necessary.
  3. Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
  4. Check your credit report annually.
  5. Check your SS earning statement annually.
  6. Protect your personal computer by using firewalls; anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for internet accounts.
  7. Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or internet unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.

Note that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to phishing@irs.gov. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General or Tax Administration.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

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