So we have had the chance to decompress and not only think about taxes now that the filing season has passed, but remaining vigilant about tax scams should never cease. After all, it will be disconcerting whenever you are contacted by someone saying that you have an outstanding tax bill, but scammers are also trying to take advantage of the post-filing season.
One of their latest scams involves calling you from a phone number that is programmed to appear as if it comes from an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. This way, if someone questions the caller’s legitimacy, they are directed to look up the phone number on IRS.gov. The scammer then will call back a short time later, and it will look like the call is coming from the number the target has been instructed to look up, adding apparent legitimacy to fraudulent claims.
This represents how scam artists are continually trying to push their efforts forward to get around the knowledge the public has. This is a sly move, too, for it seems very intuitive that if you wanted to determine if the call is real, looking up the number seems a very obvious first step. And if you find the number is an actual IRS number, that can lead to dropping your guard.
It is not just an IRS TAC office that has been used in this manner. There are also reports of scammers programming in numbers to make it appear they’re calling from a local sheriff’s office, a state Department of Motor Vehicles, or other federal agencies. Those may not be as immediately unsettling as an IRS number, but they do add that extra bit of apparent legitimacy.
So this means there are other things one must remember to try to keep yourself safe. First, know that the first correspondence from the IRS will be through the mail, not through a phone call. That piece of mail will not fun to receive, either, but it will contain enough information that you can at least determine that it is genuine.
And then, there are some things that the IRS will not do that you should remain aware of. Even if there is an apparent legitimacy to a call, the IRS will never have you pay a tax bill with a specific payment method, like a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. The IRS will also never demand you pay a tax bill without giving you the chance to question it or appeal the amount owed. A scam often works by trying to get you to act quickly, for the more time you have to gather information the more chance you will uncover that it’s fake. The government will actually give you some time (at least to start).
Finally, any threat to bring in law enforcement or immigration officers is an immediate tipoff to a scam. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business license, or immigration status.
So hold on to the pieces that you are know are true, and do not let a shred of apparent legitimacy overrule them. Listen to yourself when things seem fishy, give yourself time to figure out what is going on, and know there are people on your side ready to help you through tax issues, be they real or fake.
To ensure we don't make the folks at the IRS ornery, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.