The IRS just sent you a notice. It says that, after multiple attempts to contact you, they are going to place a levy on your assets. You start to panic; you don’t even remember the IRS trying to reach out to you. Maybe you’ve never even owed a tax debt. After calling the number on the notice, an agent tells you to pay up – or face the penalties. Worried that the IRS will levy your bank account – and maybe even take your house – you give the agent your payment information over the phone. You look at your bank account later, and your entire savings are gone. So you call the number again, only to find that the line has been disconnected. When you finally reach real IRS Agent, they inform you that you never owed a tax debt with them, to begin with. You were just scammed.
Scammers will contact millions of Americans, impersonating the IRS, and using fear tactics to get people to hand them their hard-earned money. Scammers will try to take your money by repeatedly calling your personal phone, sending intimidating emails, and sending fake notices like the one in the above example. Let’s break down these different forms of scammer communication as well as the different strategies they will use to gain your trust and steal your money.
Leaving automated voicemails to tell you the IRS is attempting to collect from you or that there is a warrant for your arrest is one of the most common tax scams. Sometimes, they will even mirror their telephone number, so it appears similar to an actual IRS number. The scammers will likely ask you to send a cash payment to a temporary address, or they will try to get you to tell them your social security number. In an attempt to wipe out your account, some may even ask for your bank account number directly.
Sending scamming emails is a strategy known as “phishing.” When people click on a link in one of these emails, it uploads a virus to your computer, which then steals your personal information, and allows them access to your passwords, and even your credit cards and bank accounts.
Fake IRS letters are sent in an attempt to have you call the number listed on the notice. After they have you on the phone, they scare you just so they can get your personal information. The notice itself may even look like it was directly sent to you by an assigned IRS officer, and it can be tough to tell the difference.
You can protect yourself from scammers. First, you should be aware that the IRS will never ask for your card or bank account information over the phone. They will never demand that you immediately pay back your supposed balance without first mailing you with balance due notices. The IRS will never ask you for payment in a specific or unusual way, such as with prepaid cards or gift cards. Furthermore, if the IRS claims that there are discrepancies on your tax return and you think that their claim is wrong, the IRS will always allow you to provide proof that your tax return is accurate. Also, the IRS will never call you and say that they are going to have you sued or arrested for your tax liability.
Always verify the source of notices, emails, or phone calls that you receive to see where they are coming from. Owing the IRS can be scary, but what’s even worse is the knowledge that scammers are preying on innocent taxpayers, trying to steal from them. Be cautious and be aware of your tax situation. Always be sure to verify who you’re talking to and where your money is going. You can call the IRS directly by dialing 1-800-829-1040, or you can visit the IRS’s website to learn more about how to avoid IRS tax scams.