Even Though Tax Season is Over –
You Can Still Get Scammed.
At tax time, if you’re like many people, you scramble around, making sure that your tax returns and all the paperwork with them are in order and sent in on time.
But there’s someone else out there hustling, too—and that’s the tax scammer.
There are usually two ways they catch you off guard.
#1: The Threat Tax Scam
The threat: Someone calls your home. The number on your caller ID says “IRS.” You start to tremble. A stern voice comes on the phone, claiming to be an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) agent. He or she says you owe back taxes and demands immediate payment.
It sure sounds real. But it’s not. If that person threatens to have you arrested, put a lien on your property, revoke your driver’s license, or deport you—beware!
It’s NOT the IRS.
It’s a scammer who wants your credit card number, your bank account number or other personal information. Even if they know many personal details about you – even if they give you a badge number, it’s still a scam.
The IRS doesn’t do business that way.
If You Do Owe Taxes, Here’s What the Real IRS May Do
If you do owe taxes, the IRS will send you a notice (a letter with a bill in it) in your regular mail—not by email—to you explaining what you owe. The mailed notice always comes first.
They will never:
- Call you about taxes you owe without mailing you a bill
- Demand you pay without a chance to appeal or question what you owe
- Ask for payment by prepaid debit card
- Ask for credit card, debit card, or bank account information over the phone
- Threaten arrest, deportation, or to take your driver’s license
If you do get a call from someone who says they’re from the IRS, hang up and do this:
If you have received a bill: Call the IRS (800) 829-2040 to set up payment options—or just set up a payment plan online at IRS.gov. Don’t pay over the phone unless it’s you calling. Don’t trust the caller to give you the right phone number. Get the phone number from the phone book or from the IRS website.
If you haven’t received a bill from the IRS: It’s a scam. Call TIGTA (the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) to report it right away. Take down all the information you can about the scam caller: phone number, gender, the sound of their voice, etc.
If it’s a phone scammer: Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Look for the “FTC Complaint Assistant.” The prompts will walk you through the process. Make sure you write “IRS Telephone Scam” in your comments.
If it’s an email scammer: Report the scam with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s how you handle the threat. But that’s not all scammers try to throw at you at tax time or afterward. There’s another, even sneakier way they try to get your money.
#2: The “I Just Need to Verify Something” Tax Scam
The minute you hear “I just need to verify some information,” warning bells should go off.
Again, the IRS won’t call you if they need more information. They’ll send you a notice. If you’re expecting a refund, and you haven’t received it yet, call the IRS.
If you get a phone call or email, it’s NOT the IRS.
The call or email usually goes like this: “I’m So-and-So from the IRS, and we just need to verify a few things to process your tax return.”
The minute you hear this, hang up.
They just want your Social Security number, bank account, credit card number or other personal information. You’re not going to give it to them. Instead, you’ll do the same thing you would with a threat:
- Contact the IRS yourself
- Report the scammer to TIGTA
- Report the scammer to either the FTC or email@example.com.
It Doesn’t End After Tax Time Is Over
Because some of these scams involve “money owed,” the scammers may call at other times during the year. Be prepared—and report it immediately if you get a call or email.
For more information on catching tax scammers in the act, look at these helpful resources from the IRS.
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Dollar amounts are for illustrative purposes, not actual.