In the last year, the IRS has seen an increase of IRS scams across the country. The two most common schemes have been telephone scams and phishing (an unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable financial and personal information). With the upcoming busy tax season, the IRS wants to issue a warning and educate citizens on some of the various tactics fraudsters are using to help prevent fraud and identity theft as much as possible.
The phone calls reported to the IRS vary. Recent schemes typically involved the caller telling the victims they owe money to the IRS or that they are entitled to a large refund. The fraudster often threatens the victim with arrest or driver license revocation if information is not revealed. Threatening messages are also left on voicemail. Fraudulent follow up has been reported where either the “local police department” or the “state motor vehicle department” contacted the victim to make the threat more believable. Immigrants have been threatened with deportation or arrest.
The IRS wants to spread the message to all citizens that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers over the phone or through emails. All initial contacts by the IRS will be by mail, posted through the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS provided the following characteristics for the recent scams:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.
- Scammers "spoof" or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear as though it is the IRS calling.
- Scammers have sent bogus follow-up emails to victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
If you are contacted either through email or by phone from someone identifying themselves as the IRS, you should report the incident to the IRS by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
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