Be careful when answering your phone these days. The Internal Revenue Service is warning the public about a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS.
Just like many other IRS impersonation scams over the years, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently identifying themselves from the IRS. In this most recent scam variation, callers “spoof” the telephone number of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn.
Calls could be ‘robo-calls’ asking the intended party to call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist asks for personal information, including Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
TAS can help protect your taxpayer rights. TAS can help if you need assistance resolving an IRS problem, if your problem is causing financial difficulty, or if you believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should. TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers “out of the blue,” according to the IRS. Usually, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help, and only then would TAS make contact with the taxpayer.
In other variations of the IRS impersonation phone scam, thieves demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Also, the IRS reports these callers are often hostile and abusive.
Alternately, scammers may tell would-be victims they are entitled to a big tax refund however they must first provide personal information. Other characteristics of these scams might include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
- Scammers may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
- Scammers spoof Caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is making the call.
- Scammers may send faux IRS emails to victims to support faux calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls to make it seem like it’s coming from a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others then call again pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and Caller ID again supports their claim.
Here are some things the scammers often do, but the IRS will not do. Taxpayers should remember that any one of these is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
The IRS never:
- Calls to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method like prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfer. Usually, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the chance to question or appeal amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers by phone.
- Call regarding an unexpected refund.
For taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t believe they do:
- Please report IRS or Treasury-related fraudulent calls to email@example.com (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. The longer the con artist is engaged; the more opportunity he/she believes exists, potentially prompting more calls.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For those who owe taxes or believe they do:
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can assist.
- View tax account online. Taxpayers can view their past 24 months of payment history, pay-off amount and balance of each tax year owed.
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS or other legitimate companies and agencies as bait. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just during tax time. For more information visit Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts on IRS.gov.