Now that tax season is over, many Americans are heaving a big sigh of relief. However, even though tax filing season has come to an end, the scams aren’t done. In fact, the IRS warns of a telephone scam that is perfect for continuing for a couple of months beyond April.
The problem with the latest telephone scam is that it is incredibly sophisticated. Here are some of the characteristics of this scam, so that you can be on your guard:
Spoofed Caller ID Numbers
First of all, phone scammers are experiencing at spoofing caller IDs. It’s possible for them to “fool” the phone system and caller ID into telling you that it’s the IRS calling by using the IRS toll-free number, or having the caller ID show up as “Internal Revenue Service.”
It’s important to realize that the IRS will not call you if you owe taxes. According to the IRS website, notices of taxes due are only sent through the U.S. Postal Service. If you get a phone call that claims to be from the IRS, but they tell you that you owe, don’t believe it.
Also, the IRS warns that some scammers spoof other agency numbers, such as your DMV or the local police department in order to call you and follow up, offering “proof” for the scam.
Another characteristic of this scam is that the caller will offer threats. They might tell you that you are headed for jail time, or that your driver’s license is going to be revoked. This seems credible since you can go to jail for tax evasion. However, whatever amount you are likely to owe isn’t likely to be an amount that warrants jail time. Additionally, states can revoke your driver’s license, but the IRS can’t. Most states will notify you of the possibility of revocation through the mail — not over the phone. Immigrants targeted by this scam are often threatened with deportation and seniors are told they won’t be receiving their Social Security benefits.
Even if you don’t owe taxes, and you know you don’t, these threats can be scary enough to cloud your judgment and encourage you to turn over your information. Don’t. Hang up and call the IRS directly. The IRS actually offers a number of options that can help you pay your taxes.
Finally, watch out for false legitimacy. Thanks to various data security breaches, it’s not too far-fetched that a scammer has the last four digits of your Social Security number, so even if s/he can reel off those digits, it’s not proof of anything. Additionally, realize that some of the scammers offer fake names, and will even give you an IRS “badge number” to sound legitimate.
Don’t fall for it. The IRS doesn’t ask for a credit card or bank number over the phone, so don’t give out the information to a caller.
Remember: The IRS will contact you through the mail. If anyone claims to be the IRS over the phone, and you didn’t make the phone call, there’s a very good chance you’re talking to a scammer. However, mail can also be exploited for scams. If you receive a letter that appears to be from the IRS, review it closely to make sure that it's not a scam IRS letter.