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IRS cautioning taxpayers on new, widespread scams

8/12/2015

NORTH VALLEY – Scam artists are targeting taxpayers through phone, email, and letter scams, pretending to be from the IRS and other government agencies. These scammers try to trick and intimidate taxpayers into giving them money. They may use fake letterhead, fake caller ID, and fake email and Web addresses in their scams.

The IRS has issued a warning to taxpayers to remain on high alert and protect themselves against these tactics. These schemes try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of roughly 600,000 contacts since October 2013. TIGTA is also aware of more than 4,000 victims who have collectively reported over $20 million in financial losses as a result of tax scams.

“We continue to see these aggressive tax scams across the country,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said.  “Scam artists specialize in being deceptive and fooling people. The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra cautious and think twice before answering suspicious phone calls, emails, or letters.”

Scammers posing as IRS agents first targeted those they viewed as most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants, and those whose first language is not English. These criminals have expanded their net and are now targeting virtually anyone.

In a new variation, scammers alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it seem like they are with the IRS or another agency, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. They use fake names, titles, and badge numbers. They use online resources to get your name, address, and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They even go as far as copying official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.

Some scammers will even provide their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where the victim can obtain a means of payment such as a debit card. In another new variation of these scams, con artists may then provide an actual IRS address where the victim can mail a receipt for the payment – all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.

Scammers try to scare people into reacting immediately, using threats of police arrest, deportation, license revocation, or other similarly unpleasant things. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests via recorded calls or emails. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your reply.

The official IRS Web site is IRS.gov. If you need to visit the IRS site, type in that address. Never click a link in an email that you think may be fraudulent, as these links can redirect to scam sites. Taxpayers are urged not to be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org, or other designations instead of .gov. 

Five things scammers often do that the real IRS would never do:
Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone. The IRS will not call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

What to do if you think you’re the target of an IRS impersonation scam:
If you actually do owe taxes, call the IRS at 1(800) 829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1(800) 366-4484.
If you’ve been targeted by any scam, be sure to contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.