According to a CNBC article, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials in Washington, D.C., tax schemes are on the rise, and perpetrators are employing more devious tactics than ever before to lure unsuspecting victims into divulging personal information.
The Treasury Department explains that an alarming number of people have fallen prey to the scams in recent years. Approximately 600,000 reports have been filed by victims since October 2013, with several thousand individuals losing millions each.
Though tax scams have been around for a while, offenders are using more sophisticated methods with to trick consumers.
With previous schemes, the target individual would receive a phone call notifying them that they owe money to the IRS or are going to receive a refund. Then, the scammers would either send an email asking the taxpayer to update their personal information on the IRS e-services portal, or a letter on what would appear to be an official IRS letterhead requesting similar details.
However, as authorities have stepped up their efforts to thwart these tax crimes, offenders have also taken measures to improve their deceptive illegal practices.
In one of the latest schemes, scammers will call their target with an altered phone number to make it seem as though it is coming from the IRS agent or other agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles. The perpetrators will even go so far as to provide false names, tiles, and even badge numbers to fool victims. Once the individual picks up, the scammer will provide them with extensive personal details, obtained through online resources, to convince the recipient of their authenticity.
So, if you receive one of these suspicious calls, how can you be sure that the person on the other line is, in fact, an IRS agent?
The IRS provided a few tips to help consumers differentiate between official agency calls and scams. One of the first signs that a call is fraudulent is the demand for payment. The IRS never contacts taxpayers by phone regarding payments and does not request personal information from consumers. If the IRS does attempt to communicate with an individual, it will always send a letter with full details regarding the nature of the charges or the amount of money that is owed on back taxes. The IRS also explains that agents will never ask consumers to make a payment on the spot without the opportunity to question the amount or appeal.
Another tell-tale sign that you are being contacted by a scammer is the request for a specific method of payment. Tax fraud perpetrators will usually ask consumers to use a prepaid debit card or wire transfer funds to prevent credit card services from putting a block on suspicious transactions.
In addition, the IRS never relies on email as a form of contact with taxpayers. Anyone who has received email communication from what appears to be an IRS agent or other federal bureau should immediately disregard these messages and report them to government officials.
If you have received unusual phone calls, emails, or letters from what appears to be an IRS or other government agency, refrain from giving out any personal information. In the event that you have already provided identification details in response to questionable solicitation, it is in your best interest to contact a tax lawyer in your area to determine whether or not you are the victim of a tax fraud scam.