Most of us are familiar with the saying, “buyer beware”. We usually know that a product offered to us at a price that seems too good to be true, or a product of higher quality than what we are paying for likely has some sort of shady origins. The guy selling Rolex watches from the inside of his jacket for pennies on the dollar is usually withholding some critical information about where it came from or how it was obtained. It’s a gamble to buy something that seems too good to be true–much like purchasing sushi from a gas station. It could, quite literally, be a crapshoot. Many of us don’t give a whole lot of thought, then, when somebody official-sounding calls and says we owe money for taxes–especially when they have a lot of our personal information on hand. Why would we question the legitimacy of it when they obviously have our phone number, date of birth, address, and our names?
Beware Anybody Calling Demanding Immediate Payment
The IRS is reporting that even though the deadline for filing taxes has expired for this year, there are still some new schemes being hatched in order to obtain your hard-earned cash. Scammers are impersonating IRS agents and demanding payment be sent immediately, usually insisting money be wired to them or placed on iTunes gift cards. They are also threatening to report would-be victims to the police to have them immediately arrested, or have their driver’s licenses revoked.
Newest Schemes and Scams
One of the newest variations of old tax scams is the “Federal Student Tax”. This is a fake tax that should immediately raise red flags. It is a strategy being used to trick students into thinking they neglected to pay taxes on student loans or grants and frighten them into forking over money which they do not owe. Scammers often sound legitimate, and often have a lot of information about the person they are targeting. Additionally, fraudsters are targeting human resources professionals for their own ill-gotten gains. They are contacting professionals and demanding W-2 information. Beware of anybody who claims to be verifying tax return information over the phone, and beware of any callers who are claiming to be in the tax preparation industry. Unless you have placed a call to a tax preparer first or you know the person calling about tax information, do not give away personal details over the phone.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone. They will also not call you about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill. They will also never threaten to immediately bring in local police to have you arrested for nonpayment of taxes. The IRS will always give you the chance to ask questions or appeal any amount they say you owe. Also, they will never demand you pay in a specific manner. This includes wiring money or placing a specified amount of money onto a prepaid debit card. Finally, they will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
How to Respond to Scammers
Do not give out any information over the phone. Hang up as soon as possible, and file a report with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) by visiting their website or calling 800-366-4484. Also, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting FTC.gov and filing a consumer complaint. Be sure to add “IRS telephone scam” in the notes. If you think you might owe taxes you can call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
Scammers are getting more bold with their approaches to get their hands on your money. Their tricks keep evolving. As people begin catching onto one scam, they are able to start a new one. Just as you should beware of anything that seems too good to be true, beware of anything that seems even remotely fishy–just like gas station sushi. Odds are you didn’t really inherit three million dollars from a Nigerian princess who you never even heard of before the email you received. The same applies to some random tax that somebody is calling you about and demanding it get paid in iTunes gift cards.