Tax season is upon us, and with that comes plenty of opportunities for fraudsters and scammers to try and trick you into thinking you owe the IRS. Let’s dive into some of the most notorious tax scams, so you and your loved ones know what to watch out for.
The most famous IRS scam call sounds like this:
The recording is an automated voice that says the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you, and to call back a number. (Hint, it’s not the real IRS). With robocalls like this, they are able to quickly target millions of taxpayers through computers, with high chances that some unlucky folks will fall for it.
Criminals impersonate IRS employees and call people in sophisticated ways. They use robocalls, or an actual person will use a fake badge numbers and names to dupe you into believing they are legit. They use fear mongering tactics by threatening you to pay or provide social security details otherwise they will come after you. On many, the scam works, and that’s why it keeps happening.
Social Security Number Scam
This phone scam is when scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. It’s yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN. If taxpayers receive a call threatening to suspend their SSN for an unpaid tax bill, they should just hang up.
Ghost Tax Return Scam
This is a common scam where someone may contact you saying they can help you prepare your taxes but will not sign the tax return they prepare (which is a standard practice for anyone who helps you with your taxes). They are called ‘ghost preparers.’ The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, because not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer.
Here is what the IRS says they never do:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments.
- Ask a taxpayer to make a payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
How to report and block these scams
- Download Truecaller for your cell phone – this is a free call blocking app that also has intelligent spam and scam protection to detect fake IRS calls, robocalls, telemarketers and other types of unwanted numbers. The app identifies names of international landlines and cell phones numbers.
- Report impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. on the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” webpage.
- Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related system like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.