2015 Certainties: Death, Taxes and IRS Scams

Posted January 30, 2015

From Phony Phone Calls from “IRS Agents” to Phishing Scams, Thieves Are Out to Extort Money and Steal Taxpayers’ Refunds

It was Benjamin Franklin who observed, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Had Ben spent most of his time in the twenty-first century instead of the eighteenth, he likely would’ve added IRS scams. Last year filing fraudulent tax returns netted cybercriminals nearly $4 billion.

In a 2014 news release on comprehensive security strategies for avoiding cybercrime and identity theft, Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer, ThreatMetrix, said, “The technology surrounding tax returns has advanced to provide a quicker and easier filing process for taxpayers, but such technology can offer additional opportunities for cybercriminals to steal identities. However, the risks associated with tax e-filing can be mitigated through comprehensive cybersecurity strategies. Specifically, businesses and government agencies must implement anonymized sharing of trusted identity intelligence without compromising personal identities and privacy.”

In her story on forbes.com, Kelly Phillips Erb features new scams taxpayers should be aware of in addition to ID theft to steal tax refunds. The following has been excerpted from her piece and edited to fit our format. You may find the complete article by clicking on this link.

Keep your guard up

[The] Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) issued a reminder to taxpayers to beware of scammers making calls claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scam, which heated up last year, has continued to plague taxpayers.

$14M lost to call con game

TIGTA called the scheme “the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen.” The agency has received reports of more than a quarter million phony contacts since October 2013. Thousands of victims have collectively paid out over $14 million to scammers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding cash.

When is the IRS not the IRS?

[If] the phone is ringing and the caller claims to be from IRS, you can generally assume that it’s not the IRS…. This is true even if the caller offers up a name and badge number or knows the last four digits of your Social Security. The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone and not by email – about unpaid taxes.

The IRS will not…

If you do owe taxes, the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.

The IRS also will not threaten to have you arrested or deported if you don’t make payment. The IRS will also not threaten to contact the department of motor vehicles. George says, “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

Don’t provide personal info and call the IRS

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, don’t offer up any personal information including credit card numbers, account numbers and PINs. If you know that you do owe and you haven’t otherwise made payment arrangements, hang up and call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 (although, to be fair, you might have to wait this season).

If you don’t owe taxes, you can report the call by filling out the online “IRS Impersonation scam” form (found on TIGTA’s website) or call TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484. You can also file an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint. Provide as many details as you can remember but again, don’t try to engage the scammers. There’s no need to go all Dragnet… leave that to the folks who do this for a living.

Is it the IRS saying you’re a victim of ID theft?

There’s also this one – where scammers claim to be from the IRS and notify you that you’re a victim of identity theft.

ThreatMetrix

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