How to spot IRS imposter scams as Tax Day approaches : NPR

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A copy of an IRS 1040 tax form is seen at an H&R Block office in Florida in December 2017.

Your phone rings and it’s someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Ominously, they say the police will knock on your door in a few minutes if you don’t pay your taxes right then and there.

Don’t fall for it. It is not the IRS contacting you.

As of 2018, more than 75,000 victims have lost $28 million to scammers impersonate the IRS by phone, email, texts and more.

That’s according to data from the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces consumer protection laws, including those against fraud. The true number is almost certainly even higher, including reports to other agencies and non-reporting victims. And there are other types of tax scams altogether, such as those who prepare the false tax and tax identity theft.

“Email and text scams are relentless, and scammers often use tax season as a way to trick people,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. news release last month.

As Tax Day approaches, here’s how the IRS actually contacts taxpayers and how you can spot fraudsters.

How the IRS will really contact you

“If the IRS contacts you, they will never contact you first by email or phone – they will contact you by writing a letter,” says Christopher Brown, an attorney at the FTC.

A a call or visit usually just happens after several letters, the IRS says – so long as you’ve ignored a bunch of letters about your unpaid taxes, that caller claiming to be from the IRS is probably lying.

The IRS they will not threaten to have the police arrest you or request that you make an immediate payment with a specific payment type, such as a prepaid debit card. “This is a sure sign that it’s a scam,” says Brown.

taxpayers he can always ask or appeal what they have, according to the IRS. Caller ID can be faked, so don’t think it’s real just because the caller ID says IRS, Brown says.

If you think the caller claiming to be from the IRS may be real, the IRS says you should ask them for their name, badge number and callback number, which you can verify with the Inspector General of Treasury for the Tax Administration by calling 1-800- 366-4484. Then, you can either call the IRS back or report the scammer here.

What scams often appear

Aggressive and threatening scam calls impersonating the IRS have been a problem for years. The callers demand immediate payment, often through a specific payment method, and threaten arrest, driver’s license revocation and even deportation if you fail to pay or provide sensitive personal information.

There isn’t data on the most common contact methods specifically for IRS impostor scams, but for government impostor scams in general, phone calls are the most common, Brown says. .

These scams are spread in emails and texts. Known as phishing and smishing scams, respectively, they appeared over the course of this year. List of “Dirty Dozen”.IRS campaign to raise awareness about tax scams.

“People should be incredibly careful about unexpected messages like this that can be a trap, especially during filing season,” said Werfel, the IRS Commissioner.

People get texts or emails saying “Your account has been suspended” or “Unusual Activity Report” with a fake link to fix the problem. Clicking on links in scam emails or texts can lead to identity theft or ransomware being installed on your phone or computer.

But scammers always evolve. “Initially what we saw more was the threat of a demand to make a payment, but then there was that new twist, which is, ‘Let’s not threaten, let’s kind of entice,'” says Brown.

That newer tactic of luring people in with promises of tax refunds or rebates is more often employed over email or text as a phishing or smishing scam, Brown says. But both threats and baiting tactics are still prevalent, and can be employed through any method of contact.

Consumers who are victims of imposter scams can report them to the IRS or to the FTC.

Regardless of the specifics, here’s a good rule of thumb FTC for spotting scams: “The government does not call people out of the blue with threats or promises of money.”

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