Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam.
See also: How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door
Scam Alert: IRS Urges Taxpayers to Watch Out for Erroneous Refunds; Beware of Fake Calls to Return Money to a Collection Agency
The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers of a quickly growing scam involving erroneous tax refunds being deposited into their bank accounts. The IRS also offered a step-by-step explanation for how to return the funds and avoid being scammed.
Following up on a Security Summit alert issued Feb. 2, the IRS issued this additional warning about the new scheme after discovering more tax practitioners’ computer files have been breached. In addition, the number of potential taxpayer victims jumped from a few hundred to several thousand in just days. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division continues its investigation into the scope and breadth of this scheme.
These criminals have a new twist on an old scam. After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, these criminals use the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit.
Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, and their versions of the scam may continue to evolve.
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity. For details see the IRS video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service.
Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest, and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams.
Note that the IRS doesn’t:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
How to Report Tax-Related Schemes, Scams, Identity Theft and Fraud
To report tax-related illegal activities, refer to our chart explaining the types of activity and the appropriate forms or other methods to use. You should also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
For more information, visit the IRS website here.