The US Department of the Treasury and the IRS recently issued new warnings to taxpayers about various scammers posing as the IRS, which may be in the form of a phone call or email stating you owe money or asking you to update your information. Many of these approaches appear very legitimate, which has led to more than 4,000 victims losing more than $20 million since October 2013. In this same time frame, more than 600,000 cases have been reported to the Treasury Department by taxpayers.
The Reason for New Warnings
Although tax scams are by no means a new phenomenon, the IRS decided it was time to provide new information to help taxpayers remain safe. The latest pool of scammers use more sophisticated approaches to appear even more legitimate, which puts even the most savvy of taxpayers at risk. For example, they have started to alter the phone number that appears on the caller ID to appear as though it comes from an IRS number. They also use fake names, titles, and badge numbers, according to CNBC. Additionally, they use copies of official IRS letters and emails and provide instructions to go to legitimate banks or IRS websites to continue to appear official.
Tips for Avoiding Scams
To protect taxpayers from falling victim to these scams, the IRS has issued a new set of signs that something may be fraudulent. The first sign of a scam is if the person claiming to be the IRS demands immediate payment. The IRS always sends a bill through the mail and any collective action occurs 30 days after a formal letter is sent. Additionally, you always have the chance to question or appeal your tax debt.
Another red flag that something is a scam is if the person demands you pay through a specific avenue, such as a money order or particular bank. The IRS never requires a particular type of payment and instead accepts several different forms to make it easy on the taxpayer. It will also never ask for personal or financial information through email or take credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you are ever threatened, especially with criminal charges, when discussing your federal tax debt, then you are talking with a scammer and not an IRS agent. The IRS does not threaten criminal action, and does not use local police department or other federal agencies to secure repayment. Although at times they do indict taxpayers with criminal charges, it is usually due to fraud and not just because of back taxes and an unpaid tax debt.
Finally, savvy consumers should look closely at any web addresses sent via email to ensure it is a valid address. The IRS will never use social media, text, or unsolicited emails to try to tell you about tax issues. By remaining aware of the source of the information, you can often prevent becoming a victim of a scam.
What to Do if You Think You Are a Victim of a Scam
If you receive any fake emails, suspicious phone calls, or letters you believe to be invalid, you should always report it to the IRS. Anytime you receive something about a tax debt and are unsure whether or not it is valid, it is always safer to contact the IRS directly to discuss your account, rather than avoid a legitimate claim or become victim to a false one. When you do contact the IRS to discuss your situation, always make sure that you are using the actual phone number and contact information for the agency. You can find this online, in phone books, and many other sources.
You can also get help by contacting the tax professionals at Fidelity Tax Relief, who will be able to research the claim to determine its legitimacy. Unfortunately, some people also fear tax relief scams, about which can learn more by reading this blog post. You do not have to worry about that with us; we are a legitimate, BBB accredited business that can help you negotiate your problems with the IRS. Call us at 877-372-2520 to see how we can help you.