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I began contemplating this article after two of my tax clients (both widows) called me to ask if they should reply to messages on their answering machines that they owed the IRS taxes. Two more clients, both married couples, received similar messages since then. In addition, last year two clients called me after receiving phone calls from IRS imposters. Both of these clients had one thing in common – foreign sounding last names.
One peculiar aspect of the most recent message my client received was the fact that the “case file number” was identical to the phone number. That would be a clue to its inauthenticity.
These scammers are either trying to steal your identity or your money. The IRS will not call you unless you are in the middle of an audit or have initiated contact with them; they will not email you. If you get an unexpected call or an email, notify your tax preparer immediately and follow the IRS advice below.
As in 2014 the top three tax scams for 2015 were identity theft, telephone scams and phishing.
We have seen an increase in identity theft with at least three clients this year who discovered someone accidentally or intentionally filed a return with their social security number. In one case, a client had to sit through an hour long interview to prove who he was to the IRS, so they could process his legitimate return.
The IRS continues to warn tax preparers and consumers on its website to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants. The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of tax due via the US mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. They also do not use text messages or social media to contact taxpayers. Any suspicious emails may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. Never click on a link or open an attachment in any questionable email.
The IRS has the following suggestions if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe taxes (for example, you have never received a bill or the caller made bogus threats such as deportation, arrest, having your utilities shut off or losing your drivers’ license) then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
- If you have been targeted by a scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Again, I also recommend notifying your tax preparer any time you receive an unexpected call or email from the IRS. It’s better to be safe than sorry!