The IRS published their IRS Tax Tips newsletter this week, reminding taxpayers about some common tax scams and how to avoid them. The newsletter included information about email phishing scams and phone scams. A summary of the newsletter is posted below, or you can read the original newsletter on the IRS Newsroom website.
Common tax scams and tips to help taxpayers avoid them
According to the IRS, tax scams have become more common in recent years. Taxpayers must be aware of common scams to avoid becoming a victim, because scammers work all year round, not only during tax season. Email scams and phone scams are two of the most common ways that con artists try to get money out of unsuspecting taxpayers.
Email phishing scams
Email phishing scams are conducted by con artists who send out emails to taxpayers. The emails look official, and they often ask for your personal information or your financial information, or they ask you to click a link to enter a payment.
In its November 4 newsletter, the IRS reminded taxpayers that the agency does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The first form of contact from the IRS will most often be a letter in the mail. If you do owe tax, you will receive a paper bill in the mail, not an email.
According to the IRS, you should report tax-related suspicious emails by saving the email and then sending that file as an attachment to email@example.com. Do not open any attachments, click on any links, reply to the sender, or take any other actions that could put you at risk.
Although the IRS generally first mails a paper bill if you owe tax, there are certain situations when the IRS would call you or send an agent to your home or business. These are usually related to audits. If you are being audited and attempts to contact you by mail are unsuccessful, you may receive a phone call from the IRS. If attempts to contact you by mail and phone are unsuccessful, an IRS agent may come to your home or business.
Another situation when you might receive a phone call is if you are a third party contact to someone else who is being audited. The IRS states on its website that if while examining one taxpayer’s return, they need information from someone else, they will first issue a letter to that third party requesting the information. After that, the IRS may contact that person by telephone. The IRS may visit the third party’s home or business first to deliver the notices/letters requesting information. They may also visit the third party’s home or business without notification to the third party if attempts to communicate with the third party in other ways, such as letters or phone calls, are not successful.
That being said, the IRS also reminds taxpayers that there are specific ways to pay taxes. The agency and its authorized private collection agencies will not:
• Leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages on an answering system.
• Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to arrest the taxpayer for not paying, deport them or revoke their licenses.
• Call to demand immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
• Ask for checks to third parties.
• Demand payment without giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
It’s also important to remember that criminals can fake or spoof caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country. Scammers can even spoof an IRS office phone number or the numbers of various local, state, federal or tribal government agencies.
The IRS says that if you receive an IRS or Treasury-related phone call, but you don’t owe taxes and you have no reason to think you do, you should:
• Not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the IRS impersonation scam call.
• Report the caller ID and callback number to the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should include “IRS Phone Scam.”
• Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission.
Here are some more articles recommended by the IRS where you can read more information about tax scams and how to avoid them.
IRS Dirty Dozen Tax Scams
Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks – Department of Homeland Security
Security Awareness for Taxpayers
At BNC Tax, our Enrolled Agents are licensed to practice before the IRS, and as such we are committed to staying up to date on the latest information from the IRS. We help our clients navigate taxes owed, letters in the mail from the IRS, and other taxpayer issues. To book a phone consultation with BNC Tax, please visit our Appointment Calendar. To read more about tax updates and issues that are important to our clients, visit our Blog.