Every year, fraudsters find new ways to try to scam innocent tax payers out of their income tax refunds. The situation is even worse if they get their hands on the taxpayer’s confidential personal information, because they use this information for identity theft, causing problems for years to come.
The IRS always starts discussions by U.S. mail
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you have not received a letter in the mail, you can be certain that the call is not legitimate, even if the caller ID says it’s the IRS. Scammers use caller ID “spoofing” tools to assign fraudulent names to caller ID in the hop of convincing people they are legitimate. Caller ID is not a reliable indicator of the caller’s identity.
All IRS communications start with a letter sent through the Postal Service. Otherwise you can be comfortable hanging up on the caller or ignoring a text or email.
The IRS does not accept gift cards or store cards as payment
If you are in communication with someone claiming to be from the IRS and they offer to accept wire transfers, iTunes, or store gift cards in payment for the money they claim you owe, that is a clear sign of fraud. You can hang up or ignore the email without worry.
The IRS does not yell or threaten you
If a caller claiming to be from the IRS becomes verbally abusive, yells or screams or threatens to have the local police come to arrest you if you don’t pay up on the spot, you are not dealing with the IRS. The IRS will not revoke your driver’s or business license or threaten you with deportation. If the caller resorts to these or similar tactics, hang up.
The IRS does not hold you for ransom
The IRS will not seize control of your phone, tablet, PC or computer files and refuse to cede control unless you pay taxes you allegedly owe. You should protect your devices with strong anti-malware software, but if you see a message stating that are locked out until you pay up, malware has infected your computer. Do not pay. Contact the FBI for assistance.
The IRS does not ask you to confirm or update sensitive data
If you receive an email or a phone call claiming to be from the IRS asking you to answer questions or go to a website to update or confirm sensitive data, this is not the IRS asking. Even if the email looks legitimate and includes the IRS logo and other official looking details, do not follow the instructions.
What to do about fraudulent contacts
Anytime you have been contacted by fraudsters, you should immediately break off communication with the caller and report the incident. The IRS publishes a handy chart with contact info for each type of scam. Report any phishing attempts to firstname.lastname@example.org.You may also report any fraudulent contact that uses the Internet to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov.
Please see these other resources for more useful information:
- Protecting your Social Security benefits from identity thieves
- With tax season comes heightened alert for fraud
- Infographic: Protect yourself from tax scams this filing season
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