Beware of Tax Scams as Tax Season Starts
Both businesses and individuals can be subject to tax scams from criminals who often impersonate the IRS or other government agencies in an attempt to extract money. It’s an old trick, but it seems that the scammers get more sophisticated every year. Soon we’ll be in the middle of tax season, when we’re especially anxious about money and often easy prey for scammers.
According to the IRS, scammers may pose as IRS agents and target especially vulnerable taxpayers, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. But even more sophisticated individuals can be victims: criminals have been known to threaten CPAs with immediate suspensions of their licenses if they didn’t immediately send money, even though individual states, and not the IRS, license CPAs!
The IRS has also reported that some sophisticated scammers can fake a caller ID so it appears you are getting a call from the IRS. They even may copy official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.
In a recent memo, the IRS says that fear is one of the principal tactics scammers use: “Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.” It is true that some states will suspend the drivers’ licenses of those who are delinquent in their taxes, but that only happens after the state has exhausted all other collection methods over a long period of time.
The IRS notes that it will never:
- Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
- Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
- Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
If you think you are the victim of a scammer, you can contact the IRS with the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.