The IRS isn’t your biggest enemy during tax season. It’s the criminals who pretend to be IRS reps and then con people out of their money. They contact potential victims chiefly through phone calls and text messages.
Typically, the message is threatening in tone and/or content, informing the target they’ll be arrested if they don’t immediately send the IRS owed money. The threat may also be deportation or a driver’s license suspension (that last one is really silly, but people actually do fall for these cons).
The money must be wire transferred or sent via a pre-paid card—and this is one of the tip-offs it’s a scam: Why wouldn’t the IRS accept a personal check like they normally do? The wire transfer or pre-paid card guarantees the crook will never be tracked.
Identifying tax scams is easy! It’s a scam if the scammy “IRS”:
- Requests a credit card number over the phone or email
- Requests a wire transfer or pre-paid card over the phone or email
- The initial communication about owed money is NOT through snail mail.
The aforementioned three points should be enough for you to identify a scam, but to make identification even easier, here’s more:
- There’s background noise to make you think it’s a busy call center.
- The caller gives you his “badge number” to sound more official.
- The caller identifies himself with a common name (i.e., Michael Harris).
- The phone call coincides with an e-mail (to make things appear more official).
- The caller hangs up when you say, “I actually work for the IRS myself.”
Scammers’ tricks that can fool you:
- The caller ID appears it’s the IRS calling. Caller ID can be easily “spoofed”.
- You get another call from supposedly the DMV or police department, and the caller ID shows this. (Now think about this for a moment: With all the really bad guys out there making trouble, don’t you think the police have better things to do than call people up about back taxes?)
- The caller may know the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Don’t argue with the caller. Simply hang up (or if you want to have fun, tell them you yourself are with the IRS and listen to how fast they hang up). If you really do owe taxes, call the real IRS and work with an authentic employee to pay what you owe.