You’re at work or out with friends when your phone rings. The caller i.d. shows “Internal Revenue Service” or similar. You check your voice mail later on and are horrified to discover a message from an IRS agent, urging you to call back immediately regarding an outstanding tax bill that’s due now.
You might also find an email from the IRS, requesting personal information and/or payment of an outstanding tax bill.
Don’t take the bait. Tax season is the most popular time for identity thieves, due in part to the sheer volume of available personal information and jittery taxpayers hesitant to question the IRS. Here is what you need to know in order to avoid falling victim to the latest tax scam:
The IRS will never initiate contact by phone or email. If you do in fact have an outstanding tax bill, you will receive a bill from the IRS, along with contact information for the agent assigned to your case.
The IRS will also never demand payment from you without the opportunity to appeal.
A tax scammer may threaten you with arrest or incarceration if you don’t pay your tax bill on time.
The IRS grants taxpayers the opportunity to contest or appeal their tax bill. The appeals process is clearly outlined in the tax due letter sent by the IRS.
The IRS will never demand that you pay taxes using only one method. Unlike tax scammers who insist you pay with cash or debit card. the IRS provides different payment options: personal check, cashier’s check, online payment with check or credit card using the IRS’s secure online payment portal.
Tax scam artists will pose as an IRS agent over the phone or via email. They’ll use their name and a phony badge number. They may ask for your debit/credit card information, or your checking account information.
Don’t fall for it. A legitimate IRS employee will never ask for payment information over the phone.
These scams initially targeted older taxpayers, recent immigrants and other vulnerable groups. Tax scam artists have now branched out, and even tried to scam a police detective.
Needless to say, if you receive one of these calls, do the following:
Hang up immediately.
Report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGA).
Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If you believe you owe taxes, contact the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. IRS workers can verify your tax balance and help you make payment arrangements if necessary.