Hello, is it me you're looking for?

May 07, 2018 by Selena Quintanilla
Magnifying glass over tax forms with crime scene tape

It was an ordinary Saturday evening. “Goosebumps: The Cuckoo Clock of Doom" was starting, and my living room was packed tight with little munchkins. I was standing up to refresh the popcorn bowl when a sudden vibration, followed by an eerie melody, sent the left-over kernels soaring through the air.

After composing myself, I realized that the sound was coming from my cell phone. Without checking the caller ID, I answered the call. Faint voices echoed through my speaker, and after three or four times of calling out with no response, I hung up. A few minutes later, my phone rang again. After a long pause, an unrecognizable voice requested to speak to me by name.

Hesitantly, I replied, "May I ask who's speaking?" The response I received sent a chill up my spine. "It's agent John Smith, ma'am. With the IRS." I sat silently for a few seconds waiting for the man to continue. "Is this Miss Quintanilla, last four of the social -XXXX?" Now he had my attention – and against my better judgment, I let the conversation continue. 

The "agent" went on an angry tirade about how several of my prior year tax returns were being investigated. He further explained that since numerous contacts from the IRS had gone unanswered, they had no other choice but to pursue collective actions against me. I assured Agent Smith that I had not received any letters in the mail, and my address had not changed over the course of the years in question.  

In complete disregard of my comments, he demanded that I wire $5,000 (half of my tax bill) to his bank account or he would alert local law-enforcement and see to it that my bank accounts were frozen. He said he would text me with further instructions, and that I would have one hour to comply. At this point, I requested his badge number and asked to speak to a supervisor. This sent Mr. Smith over the edge, with threats and insults pouring from his mouth. This confirmed my suspicion. I wasn't speaking to an IRS agent at all: I was speaking to a criminal. And just like that, the conversation came to a close.

Equal parts frustrated and amused, I returned to popcorn duty, but I couldn't help thinking about who that criminal would be targeting next. Lucky for me, I work at an organization that educates us on both standard IRS procedures, and our rights as taxpayers. However, I am aware that this isn't the case for most individuals. With this in in mind, I have compiled a short list of things to be mindful of when contacted by someone claiming to be an IRS representative. 
 

  • Scammers will generally use familiar names and provide fake badge numbers to identify themselves. (In my case, the scammer ended the call without providing a badge number.)
  • The IRS will first mail a bill to a taxpayer who owes taxes. Often, several notices will be issued before a phone call or visit from an IRS representative is warranted.
  • The IRS will not demand prompt payment in the forms of gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfers.  
  • The IRS will not contact you via email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information. 
  • The IRS will not threaten you with the involvement of local law-enforcement or immigration officers. The agency is also unable to revoke your immigration status, business licenses, and driver's license.  
  • One of the most important things to bear in mind is that the IRS cannot demand payment of tax without providing an opportunity to question or appeal the proposed liability.

Though most of the factors mentioned above seem like common knowledge, that isn't always the case. Scammers understand the fear associated with being contacted by the IRS and feed upon it. They conduct extensive research, and over time they have come to perfect their techniques. While there's no sure-fire way to avoid being targeted by one of these criminals, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to their schemes by developing a basic understanding of what the IRS can and cannot do.

NOTE: Contacts from the IRS, or potential scammers, should not be taken likely. If you doubt the validity of contact, whether it be by mail, in-person, or over the phone, you are encouraged to report this directly to the IRS. If you have Audit Defense through TaxAudit or an outside company, your representative should immediately be notified. 
 

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Selena Quintanilla, CTEC
Communications Associate

 

Selena Quintanilla is a Communications Associate at TaxAudit, and a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax professional. She is now on a mission to bring clarity and comprehensibility to a topic that keeps us all up at night at least once a year-TAXES! Please, send coffee! 


 

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This blog does not provide legal, financial, accounting, or tax advice. The content on this blog is “as is” and carries no warranties. TaxAudit does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the content of this blog. Content may become out of date as tax laws change. TaxAudit may, but has no obligation to monitor or respond to comments.