When we hear about tax scammers that steal money from people by making telephone calls, we can’t imagine that this can ever happen to us. However, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), J. Russell George, nearly 3,000 American taxpayers paid over $14 million in total to the phone scammers. Although tax criminals operate year-round, they find tax filing seasons particularly rewarding. Therefore, this is that time of the year when we all have to be especially careful.
Over 290,000 reports of contacts made by tax scammers have been filed by American taxpayers from October 2013 through January 2015, based on information obtained from TIGTA. All calls have the same goal of persuading the taxpayer to make a payment to satisfy a so-called IRS debt via a pre-paid debit card or a wire transfer. If taxpayers refuse to make a payment, scammers threaten them with an arrest, loss of driver’s license, closure of business, or seizure of property. J. Russell George also mentioned the international nature of this scam, and called it “be the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen”, according to AccountingToday.com.
If you received a phone call from an individual claiming to be the IRS agent, here is what you can do:
- If you don’t know whether or not you owe taxes – tell the person on the phone that you need to do some research before discussing anything over the phone, and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. You might have to spend some time on hold, but at least you will be able to get answers to your questions. If you find out that you owe taxes, don’t forget to write down contact information of the IRS office or representative assigned to your case. It is possible that the tax scammers knew about your debt and tried to pretend to be the IRS officer.
- If you don’t owe taxes, or the caller who tried to collect your debt wasn’t from the IRS – report this phone call to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. It can be done by calling TIGTA at 800-366-4484, or by visiting their website: www.treasury.gov/tigta. The form that you need to fill out on this website is called “IRS Impersonation scam”.
- You can also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov, but don’t forget to include “IRS Phone Scam” in the comment section of your complaint.
- To report tax scam emails, forward the email to email@example.com.
It is important to remember that tax scammers can also claim to be from the police or from the local Department of Motor Vehicles, and state that they received your case from the IRS to enforce collection of the debt.