With tax season over, phone scammers return in force

The IRS once again is warning taxpayers to watch out for phone scammers who call and threaten legal consequences unless they pay the IRS with an immediate wire transfer or gift card.

Victims often are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a driver’s license. In some cases, the caller promises that a tax refund is available but requires the taxpayer’s private information, such as debit or credit card numbers.

Other times, the scammer claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters sent to the taxpayer in the mail that were returned as undeliverable. The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card.

The cons are now so advanced that scammers may know unique details about the victim, and the caller ID might even falsely show that the IRS (or one of its taxpayer assistance centers or TACs) is calling.

If the taxpayer questions the caller’s demands, the scammer may direct the taxpayer to IRS.gov to verify the local TAC office telephone number in order to “prove” that the call and demands are legitimate. After the taxpayer has “verified” the call number, the fraudsters resume their demands for payment.

Some thieves have also used video relay services to scam taxpayers with limited hearing.

If you receive a call and are uncertain about its legitimacy, keep in mind that the IRS does not:

  • call to demand immediate payment using a specific method. Generally, the IRS will notify a taxpayer through the mail if they owe money.
  • threaten to alert local police to have an individual arrested for failure to pay.
  • demand payment without providing time to appeal the amount.
  • ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Anyone who receives such a phone call should hang up immediately and report the call to the IRS through its Impersonation Scam Reporting page and by email at phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam.”

Source: IRS Newswire IR-2018-103, April 24, 2018, www.irs.gov

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