A warning this week from the Internal Revenue Service describes a new variant on an old scam. The typical one goes like this: an impersonator calls and claims to be from the IRS. Then says you owe back taxes and must immediately pay over the phone or the police will come arrest you.
The new twist is that instead of demanding immediate payment, the person on the phone claims to be verifying details so he or she can process your tax return. This innocuous request has claimed victims who provide personal information.
Stay on guard as con games change
While the Service sends out occasional press releases when it uncovers these new tactics, it advises remaining on guard. Remember that the IRS will not call you out of the blue.
Requests for the following information over the phone should always prompt skepticism:
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card data
Often by just obtaining one of these pieces of information, a criminal can piece together others and then use your identity to file a fraudulent tax return.
A new public awareness campaign launched by the agency in 2015 seeks to educate taxpayers about these issues. Recognizing the schemes is the first step to avoid identity theft.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has noted the growing reach of these schemes across the country. Koskinen even admitted that he had received these calls himself. It takes chutzpah on the part of scammers to call and demand a tax payment from the agency's commissioner. Likely, they did not know who they were calling.
Since 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has heard from approximately 896,000 people who have received the calls. This has to be only the tip of the iceberg, because most people do not take that extra step of filing a report.
Imposters have duped more than 5,000 individuals into collectively paying more than $26.5 million.
Do you owe taxes?
If you know that you owe a significant amount of back taxes, you may be expecting someone to call. But the IRS does not call from out of nowhere. Always verify the identity of the caller. If you are actually being contacted by the IRS, get help.
Options exist that can help you resolve your tax issues. Speak with a tax attorney to learn more and avoid a tax levy or wage garnishment.