With Halloween coming up, it is just not the neighbor kids looking forward to trick or treat but also people pretending that they are the Internal Revenue Service looking to steal your identity and scam you for your money.
The scam artists exploiting innocent law-abiding taxpayers has been a big problem for the IRS and despite issuing multiple consumer alerts, the bogus emails, the bogus IRS letters and the bogus telephone calls continue and unfortunately taxpayers are still falling for this. The government estimates that taxpayers have lost roughly $5 million to scammers.
Every week our office receives about a half-dozen inquiries from taxpayers asking whether the communication they just received is really from the IRS. I do not want you to become the next victim of any such scam so read on to what we have to say.
The communication methods used by the scammers are email, letters and telephone calls. The scammers are still going strong doing this to people who are unsuspecting and don’t know how systems work and could very easily frighten them to turn over money. So I am going to break down each type of fraudulent communication for you and give you the warning signs and tips that you should be aware of.
When identity theft takes place over the Internet, it is called phishing. Phishing (as in “fishing for information” and “hooking” victims) is a scam where Internet fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. Current scams include phony e-mails which claim to come from the IRS and which lure the victims into the scam by telling them that they are due a tax refund.
Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue so if this is the form of communication used – avoid it like you would avoid the plague.
If you receive a notice regarding your taxes which does not bear the official seal of the Internal Revenue Service and an official verifiable address of an IRS office or Service Center, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS sending you a notice.
The most recent scam that the public has told our office involves a sophisticated fraudulent tax collection notice scam targeting taxpayers for which the IRS has filed a Federal Tax Lien.
Here is how it works: The scammers will search public records for the filing of a Federal Tax Lien by IRS and with the information gathered from that filing will generate a form letter and mail it to the targeted taxpayer. The letter is designed to mimic an IRS notice but it is really coming from a third party having nothing to do with the IRS. If the recipient of the notice contacts the number listed, the person answering your call will purport to be working for the IRS. The intended victim is told he or she owes money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, he or she is then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the person who answered your call becomes hostile and insulting.
These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. They may know a lot about you and may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number and your place of business. They usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling – many times they will use a Washington, D.C. area code. The area codes for the Washington D.C. area are 202, 301 and 703. They will also background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request and if they have your email address, will send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
How Do You Recognize That This Call Is Fake?
Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
- Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
- 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.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
So What Should You Do?
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484. So far for this year, the government has received more than 90,000 calls.
And if you do owe taxes and you have not already resolved this with the IRS, then that is where we come in. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.
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