In a recent key-note address to over 1,000 tax professionals in Chicago, John Koskinen, the Commissioner of the IRS, asked the audience to raise their hands if they had personally been contacted by someone pretending to be from the IRS. He re-iterated that he was not talking about clients, but those sitting in the audience. Well over 50% of the professionals raised their hands. So did the IRS commissioner.
The scam epidemic
Here is how the scam usually works. You receive a phone call from these would-be thieves representing themselves as IRS employees. They will have personal information of yours to make their demands seem credible. Their goal? Get you to pay them for fake past due taxes. They are demanding credit card payments, wire transfers, money orders, and even gift cards. These thieves often threaten victims with bank account seizure and immediate arrest.
It comes in many forms
This IRS scam is so prevalent, it is coming in many forms.
- Some taxpayers are receiving emails.
- Others receiving phone calls find their caller ID showing IRS credentials. These thieves often read back your personal information (stolen from somewhere else) to add to the believability of their lie.
- They create fake taxes. One of the more recent scams creates a non-existent Student Loan Tax and demands immediate payment from in-debt students.
- They direct you to fake web sites.
What you need to know
Identity theft is now so bad, that you can count on this scam happening to you or someone you know. If you receive a phone call from the IRS do the following.
Do not answer. If the phone ID says the IRS, make them leave a message. There is no need to raise your blood pressure with these low-life thieves. The IRS has recently re-confirmed they will not make initial contact with you via phone or email.
If you answer, hang up. If you inadvertently answer the phone, just hang up. Do not provide any information to the caller. Do not confirm any information the caller tells you. Dealing with these clowns can only make matters worse.
Do not fret. You are not alone in receiving this scam. Millions of taxpayers are dealing with the hassle of this theft. So stay calm. Remember, legitimate IRS communication starts with a letter that can be independently verified for accuracy without putting your identity at risk.
Tell everyone you know. This is important. Young taxpayers, older citizens, and new citizens are common victims of this scam. Help make everyone you know aware of this theft risk. Tell your kids, tell your parents, and tell your grandparents. Awareness is our best defense.
Report the scam. Follow the instructions provided by the IRS.