The countdown to the filing deadline for 2013 taxes is on so when IRS pops up on caller ID, it might not be a surprise. Your first thought may be that the agency is calling about the tax forms you recently filed or to remind you to file your taxes. However, there’s a reason to think twice before providing the information the caller asks for. The IRS watchdog group recently warned about a sophisticated phone tax scam that has cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said that thousands of Americans have fallen victim to this scam, calling it the largest of its kind that the watchdog group has ever seen. A crook posing as an IRS agent calls and provides the last four digits of your Social Security number as confirmation. The fake IRS agent tells taxpayers that they owe money and provides details of how this can be paid using pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers. These scammers have also used bogus emails and called back claiming to be police or department of motor vehicle officials to support their scam.
Scams are increasingly more complex and while this may sound authentic, the truth is the IRS usually first contacts taxpayers about unpaid taxes through the mail, not the phone or email.
Although we are careful to lock our front door, keep our wallet safe and know where the kids are playing, too many people are falling victim to new and creative thieves, particularly over the phone and on the internet. There are many new ways that thieves are trying to enter our lives and it can result in identify theft or financial theft. The old adage holds true that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Recently an Arkansan called our office after he was informed that he won a lottery overseas. He supplied his bank information for a direct deposit and all of the money in his account was stolen. The documents for this scam looked very official and included a fake letter from Attorney General Eric Holder.
It is important that we continue to be vigilant with our personal information. Modern day scams can be very detailed and convincing. Check with someone you know and trust before you respond to an unsolicited email or phone call. Although the documents can look official, a person familiar with banking or government documents can usually tell quickly whether or not it is legitimate. The Taxpayer Advocate Service, a division of the IRS that offers free assistance for resolving tax problems recently said it learned of a new email phishing scam that includes the division’s logo. Taxpayers receive an email with a bogus case number that says their 2013 tax return was flagged for review because of a processing error. The email also contains links to solicit personal information.
If you get an email or call similar to what I’ve described, report it to the IRS. Reporting scams or suspicious activity may help you and others avoid financial or identify theft.