The IRS recently released information about Summer scams circulating our phones, internet and emails. Here are some ways to see what kinds of scams are out there and some telltale signs as to whether it is the IRS or a Con Artist. Some are so blatantly clear that it seems they target low education or limited English speaking communities. Others, simply prey on the forgetfulness of a busy nation.
See if you recognize any of these scams reported by the IRS. Caller demands immediate payment of back taxes (you don’t know about) using a very specific “prepaid” debit card on the EFTPS (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System). If you don’t pay, you will be arrested. OR, a robocall comes through and leaves a message on your phone threatening jail if you do not pay immediately, also using a very specific pre-paid debit card and sometimes a gift card. Next, a private debt collection company calls about a tax debt you never knew you had. All of these can be avoided. I mean, if the IRS is calling and asking you to pay using an iTunes card, you have to know you’re being scammed.
So how do you weed out these apocryphal cons? Here are a few Tell Tale Signs that it is a scam:
The IRS or IRS authorized private collection agencies will NEVER:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. The IRS will usually first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should NEVER be made to third parties.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If it IS the IRS knocking at your door or ringing your phone you will know it because:
- You will have received many letters by US postal service informing you of your debt with the opportunity to dispute the amount or the debt all together.
- Any IRS employees conducting audits will do so after providing you their HSPD-12 government secure and reliable identification. You have a right to see these credentials.
- If an agent drops by, unannounced, to collect a debt immediately, you can be certain they will provide you with their credentials so you know they are real. And, if you refer to #1 under this list, you will have had ample time to respond to the letters sent before.
- Any Private Debt Collectors assigned to your account will have been noted in any of the previous correspondences. And they will require a check, not a prepaid debit card or gift card. If you question how to pay the IRS here is a link telling you what to expect: IRS.gov/payments.
- An Auditor may call to arrange a time to meet with a tax payer, but, again, not before first informing the taxpayer in writing.
- Any Criminal Investigations can take place unannounced but only by federal law enforcement agents who definitely do not take payments.
What should you do if you believe you are being scammed? First, remember NOT to give out any of your vital personal or financial information. Then go to the IRS.gov website and click on the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” page. Or you can call 800-366-4484
Mostly, know that our tax department does not like to operate in too many variables, so as not to be too confusing. They want their money, just like we want ours. So they are going to make it as clear and official as possible.