The IRS has a Warning for Taxpayers

The IRS has a Warning for Taxpayers

While many say there is nothing new under the sun, IRS has warned taxpayers about a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam under which criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within IRS.

Background. The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an actual independent organization within IRS whose employees assist taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, who are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe that an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should.

IRS cautioned that similar to other IRS impersonation scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently claiming to be from IRS. In this most recent scam variation, callers “spoof” the telephone number of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn. Calls may be “robo-calls” that request a call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist requests personal information, including Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

IRS explains that TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers “out of the blue.” Typically, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help first, and only then would TAS reach out to the taxpayer.

In other variations of the IRS impersonation phone scam, fraudsters demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often hostile and abusive. Alternately, scammers may tell would-be victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information. Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • The persons use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
  • The persons may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
  • The persons spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling.
  • The persons may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.

In IR 2019-44, 3/15/2019, IRS also highlighted a few other tell-tale sign of a scam. Things the scammers often do, but IRS will never do include:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call about an unexpected refund.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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