For the last six months in particular the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have been warning the public about scams in which scammers pose as IRS agents calling unsuspecting taxpayers and threatening them with fines, penalties and even jail time if they do not immediately pay the scammers for claimed overdue taxes. According to the IRS, for the last two years there have been reports of approximately 736,000 people being called by scammers posing as IRS agents demanding immediate payment of overdue taxes by credit card, prepaid debit cards or wired funds. Often the scammers threaten their victims with criminal charges, deportation or loss of a driver’s license. According to J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS is aware of about 4,550 victims who have paid more than 23 million dollars to these scammers over the last two years. Unfortunately, the real figure of victims and money lost is most likely far in excess of these figure. These scams continue to plague taxpayers and will probably only get worse when the IRS actually starts using paid collectors who will be contacting taxpayers by phone later this Spring thereby making the scam callers look more legitimate.
Now, however, the IRS has issued a new warning about email tax scams which have increased 400% since last year. In these scams, people are targeted with phishing emails that appear to come from the IRS asking for personal information and providing links for people to click on which either take them to a legitimate looking webpage that asks for information that is used to make the person a victim of identity theft or, in other instances, merely by clicking on the link, keystroke logging malware is downloaded on the victim’s computer which steals information and uses it to make the person a victim of identity theft. Often the guise under which the emails are sent is asking the taxpayer to update filing information including information about W-2s.
Both the phone and email IRS scams are easy to spot. The IRS will never initiate communications with a taxpayer by phone or email so if someone calls you or emails you purporting to be from the IRS in an initial effort to collect overdue taxes or to confirm information, you should hang up the phone or delete the email. Even if your Caller ID appears to show that the call is from the IRS, this does not mean that the call actually is from the IRS. Through a technique called “spoofing” a scammer can make the call appear to be legitimate, but it is not. The IRS will never demand payment by credit card, debit card, cash card or wired funds through an initial telephone call or email. If you think that you really may owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to speak to a real IRS employee. If you receive a scam call or email, you may wish to report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.