Authored by: Kirk Eck, Shareholder at CMP.
We get many calls from clients who have been contacted via telephone, email or mail, by someone purporting to be the IRS. Most recently, there has been an uptick in scam calls where individuals are claiming to be IRS employees. By March of this year, the IRS had received over 20,000 reports about the scam and estimated that over $1 million dollars had been stolen.
The crooks are using a couple different techniques when they call. They will present themselves as an IRS or CID agent and may ask for payments for unpaid tax and/or penalties related to the taxpayer’s tax returns. The caller often knows the last 4 digits of the victims Social Security Number and will tell them they must pay immediately with a prepaid credit card or direct wire transfer. Another approach is when they tell the victim that they are due a large refund and request personal information in order to process the refund for them. The crooks then use this information to commit identity theft in many different ways. Some of these scammers become very threatening and abusive, threatening victims with arrest or deportation if they don’t comply at once. They’ve also claimed that they will shut down the victim’s business or revoke their driver’s license if they don’t receive the owed money right away.
If you receive one of these calls, you should refuse to provide any information while on the phone. The scammers often make the caller ID information appear as though it is the IRS calling, so don’t rely on who your phone tells you is calling. You can ask the caller for a number to return their call later, and then confirm with the IRS if the phone number is valid by calling them at 800-829-1040. You should also alert the IRS to the call and provide them with all the details from the conversation with the scammer. We always encourage our clients to forward to us any correspondence from the IRS before responding, allowing us to review the notice and the validity of its claims.
The IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer via email, so any such email should be treated as a phishing scam and deleted immediately, regardless of how official it may appear.
The IRS’s process is to first try contacting a taxpayers via mail, and will often ask the taxpayer to then initiate contact with the IRS to resolve the problem via return mail or phone call. They will usually only contact a taxpayer via telephone after repeated efforts to contact the taxpayer via mail has failed. And they will never demand immediate payment via debit card, credit card or wire transfer on the telephone.