WSMR Legal Office
While tax filing season is still months away, the IRS and law enforcement have noted an uptick in various scams designed to mimic the IRS or state taxation authorities.
These scams intend to either outright steal money from their targets or trick their targets into disclosing personal information for later exploitation. According to the IRS, recent scams to be aware of include:
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam
The Scam: The target receives a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent. The caller may provide a fake name and IRS identification number. Typically these callers have some information about their target beforehand and will often manipulate caller ID to add to the scam. The fraudster will then assert that the target owes the IRS money and must pay immediately to avoid arrest, deportation, or suspension of business or driver’s license. Alternately the caller may state that the target may be entitled to a large refund if they can confirm personal details. The caller will often become hostile or insulting to scare victims. The caller will demand payment by wire transfer or pre-loaded debit card.
Scam Indicators: The IRS sends notice of past due amounts to taxpayers with options to dispute their findings. Dispute mechanisms will always be explained. The IRS will not request personal information via unsolicited phone call. The IRS will not call with threats of jail or lawsuits.
Tax Bill Notices
The Scam: Scammers send via mail (or email) a fraudulent IRS notice labeled “CP2000” for tax year 2015. The notice states that adjustments have been made to the target’s federal income tax return resulting in an amount owed. Further, the notice claims that the adjustment is related to the Affordable Care Act. The letter appears to come from an Austin, TX address and requests an immediate check be sent to “I.R.S.” at the “Austin Processing Center” located at a P.O. Box. There is little or no information on the fraudulent notice regarding dispute procedures.
Scam Indicators: Actual CP2000 notices do not pertain to the Affordable Care Act but rather are used when a taxpayer’s reported income does not match income reported from employers or other third-party sources. Legitimate notices provide extensive information on dispute procedures. Finally, authentic notices request that checks be made out to the “United States Treasury.”
Email and Text
The Scam: Fraudulent emails or text messages are designed to appear as official communications and are sent requesting that the recipient “Update your IRS e-file” or request additional information on a wide variety of topics. The email or text will contain an internet link or links which will take the target to a fake IRS website which may solicit additional information or may contain malware. Alternately, the email may request a response directly.
Scam Indicators: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or request personal or financial information via email or text.
How to Protect Yourself
Such scams are constantly evolving, and future scams may not look like those mentioned above, here are some things you can do to protect yourself when you get a communication from the IRS:
•Do not respond to or click on links in email or text messages purporting to be from the IRS
•Independently verify the communication by contacting the IRS via information provided on the IRS website (https://www.irs.gov or via phone at 1-800-829-1040). Do not use the contact information provided in the potentially fraudulent communication.
•Never provide sensitive information, such as your Social Security Number or tax filing PIN, to any unsolicited or unverified requests.
•Only give personal information to known websites with encrypted communication protocol in place, signified by the “https” address.
•Never open email attachments unless you know who sent it and what the attachment is.
•Only install software downloaded from trusted.
•Practice good cyber security (strong passwords, updated computer, virus protection, firewall, encryption, etc.)
•Review your credit report at least annually for any unexpected information.
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies every year. You may request this report online at https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com .
If you think you have been the target of a scam, you can report the attempt:
•Email scams can be reported by forwarding the scam to firstname.lastname@example.org
•Fraudulent phone calls can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
•Complaints can also be directed to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/
•Eligible individuals (generally Servicemembers, retirees, and their family members) can contact the White Sands Missile Range Legal Office to speak with an attorney for assistance in reporting the incident or to address other tax related matters.