Avoid Summertime Sadness and Scams

7/1/2017 | Written by: Haley McClellan

Although the busy-bee season of tax preparation is over, the IRS recently issued a warning that tax-related scams are still on the rise and are urging taxpayers to take caution! Many of these scammers will send out documents that look similar to authentic IRS-issued notices. While this is the most prevalent scam currently, there are still other scams to be wary of. IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, shared that the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to “watch out for new and evolving schemes this summer. Many of these are variations of a theme, involving fictitious tax bills and demands to pay by purchasing and transferring information involving a gift card or iTunes card."  
 

The following are tell-tale signs of a scam, as the IRS will never: 
 

  • Call and demand payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.  
  • Threaten to have local law enforcement come to your home to arrest you unless you pay immediately. 
  • Demand payment without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to appeal the amount owed. 
  • Ask for sensitive information over the phone, such as credit/debit card numbers. 


So, what are some other scams to be on the lookout for? A new scam, involving an "EFTPS" (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System) has been reported nationwide. Scammers contact taxpayers by phone, saying that they sent two certified letters by mail that came back as “Return to Sender.” After telling them this lie, scammers then threaten arrest if the taxpayer doesn't make a payment via debit card that they claim is linked to the EFTPS, which is a fake system. To conclude, the scammer will warn the taxpayer not to talk to their tax preparer, attorney or the local IRS office until after the payment is made.  
 

Another prevalent scam to be on the lookout for is "robo-call" messages, where scammers leave a voicemail telling taxpayers that a warrant will be issued for their arrest if they do not return their phone call immediately. If this happens to you, do not respond! Taxpayers who have responded to these calls have been harassed by these scammers, who demand that you take immediate action by paying with a debit card or wire transfer to their account. Remember: The IRS never calls and leaves pre-recorded messages! 
 

The IRS recently implemented a new program in which they issued notices to a small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts were assigned to private-sector collection agencies. Soon to follow, of course, were scammers who wanted to mock this process. However, the way to tell the difference between a true outreach about an overdue account is that the IRS will have previously reached out to the taxpayer many times, and the taxpayer is aware that they have an amount due, whereas scammers attempt to use this tactic on taxpayers who have never owed any taxes and try to scare them into paying. 
 

Lastly, scammers have been targeting taxpayers with limited English proficiency. Con artists use the tactic of approaching these taxpayers with their native language, and by threatening to deport them if they do not pay an "owed tax" immediately. 
 

Nobody wants their summer fun ruined by an IRS scam artist; therefore, if a potential scam happens to you, proceed with the following actions: 
 

  • Never give the caller any information and hang up immediately. 
  • Contact the TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) either by web or by calling 800-366-4484. 
  • Report the scam to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) via the web at FTC.gov. 


If you think there is a chance you MAY owe taxes, head to IRS.gov to view your tax account information online. You may also call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to speak with an agent about any tax account concerns you may have.
 

Enjoy your summer, and avoid summertime sadness by looking out for scams!