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15 November 2016

Tax Scam Roundup

Tax Scam Roundup

Finally, some good news when it comes to tax scams. Earlier this fall, police in India raided nine call centers that were involved in calling phone numbers in the United States pretending to be IRS agents and demanding payment for taxes. The scam netted the operation approximately $150,000 a day, according to The Wall Street Journal. Even with this large operation shut down, though, it’s important to stay vigilant. Tax scams start and evolve every single day.

In the recently busted tax scam ring, suspects allegedly told U.S. citizens that they owed the authorities up to $10,000 and that their homes would be raided by police within 30 minutes if they hung up. Victims were instructed to go to a nearby department store and buy a prepaid debit card that they would deposit the money on and then transfer to a bank account in the U.S. In the end, an estimated 15,000 U.S. citizens were allegedly swindled. One man was repeatedly targeted and ended up losing $136,000.

We also recently covered a scam involving IRS CP2000 notices, which are normally sent by mail to alert taxpayers that their tax return information doesn’t match IRS records. These fraudulent notices are sent via email, though, which is another red flag when it comes to communication: the IRS never initiates contact by email.

Other recent tax scams include:

  • Telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payment for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”
  • “Robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.”
  • Email scammers citing tax fraud and trying to trick victims into verifying “the last four digits of their Social Security number” by clicking on a link provided. 
  • Scammers calling to say they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. 
  • A phishing email scheme targeting payroll and human resources professionals that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees.

With so much at stake and so many U.S. taxpayers being fooled by tax scammers, it’s worth repeating the following mantra from the IRS. The IRS never:

  • Calls to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threatens to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demands that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Asks for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

The bottom line: Don’t give in to aggressive demands for immediate payment. If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component such as EFTPS, do not open attachments or click on links. Instead, report to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. If you receive a suspicious call allegedly from the IRS, end the call and call the IRS yourself or call a tax professional for advice.

Image Copyright: stokkete / 123RF Stock Photo

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