New tax scam alert: Cons posing as fake IRS agents now calling to 'verify' filers' tax return information
In another post last week, I likened tax security lapses to a wildfire. I've reconsidered that analogy, at least when it comes to the tax crooks who try to breach systems and ensnare us in their schemes.
They are like water.
They change course as often as needed, finding any tiny opening into which they can drip and then flow.
Tax phone scam, take 2: Take, for example, a new tax scam that the Internal Revenue Service says is starting to show up across the country.
Since folks are now on the lookout for the fake IRS agent call that threatens arrest, crooks have retooled their telephone scam script. They now are calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.
This latest variation, says the IRS, is trying to take advantage of the current filing season.
Scam artists -- and by the way, artists are wonderfully creative folks who contribute to our society; we need another word for these tax crooks -- call saying they have received your tax return and just need to verify a few details to process it.
You then are asked for personal and financial information, such as a Social Security number and bank account or credit card numbers.
"These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns," notes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Don't be fooled. The IRS won't be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment."
Scam warning signs: I know getting even a fake call from someone purporting to be with the IRS can be unsettling. But if that happens -- and it likely will; I've gotten five IRS scam robocalls so far this filing season -- remember, that 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 several bills.
Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
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.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Reporting tax scams: If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for/demanding money or seeking to verify your identity and you don't owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do, then follow these steps:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, known by its government acronym TIGTA, to report the call. Use TIGTA's IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Web page or call toll-free 800-366-4484.
- Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Be sure to add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes section.
Even if you know you owe, or think you may owe tax, go ahead and ignore these scam calls. Instead, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and talk to a real IRS employee about your options.
In the natural world, water can overtake, reshape and often irreparably damage the landscape. The same happens to victims of scammers who find a crack in your financial and tax security systems.
It's hard to stop the water once it gets in. Make sure you do all you can to patch any leaks.
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