Over the past few months, there has been an increase in the number of fraudulent phone calls and emails from people representing themselves as the IRS.
If targeted by an IRS scam, you will likely receive a phone call, letter, or an email saying you owe thousands of dollars for back taxes. The letters look authentic. They are worded in a heavy-handed, threatening manner. They play into the fears of the big bad wolf (the IRS) coming to get Little Red Riding Hood, which is you, the American tax payer. Oftentimes the email will contain a link to facilitate payment of the bogus tax bill.
Some of the calls can be quite scary with threats of IRS lawsuits, and some have stated, “if a lawyer does not call they wish you luck as ‘the situation unfolds around you.’” More recently, the IRS has seen an uptick in fake tax bills as they relate to the Affordable Care Act. (For more, see: How the IRS Catches Tax Cheats and Liars.)
An alternative tactic is for them to call or email you saying you are the beneficiary of new federal tax credits and thereby entitled to a large refund. Instead of scaring you into giving them your bank information, they entice you with promises of a larger refund—who doesn’t want that? Don’t fall for it.
Typically, scammers look for ways to get access to your cash, either through your bank account information or some other electronic form of payment, something that can't be traced. Always be extremely diligent when giving out such information, even to the IRS.
How the IRS Contacts You
Know this: The IRS doesn’t make phone calls!
The IRS does not correspond via email or phone as the initial point of contact. If contacted by the real IRS, you will receive a letter. If you are married, both of you will receive a letter. This is your first indication the contact may be legitimate. Your next step is to go directly to IRS.gov to find the proper phone numbers or call 800-829-1040 and start a conversation. Do not call the number in the letter or click on a link in an email. If you are in receipt of a fake email, the IRS encourages you to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and to delete it immediately. (For related reading, see: Stop Scams in Their Tracks.)
According to the IRS website, the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- 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.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. (For related reading, see: E-filing With the IRS: Is It Safe?)