It’s that time of the year again— tax season! Unfortunately, tax season presents another opportunity for scammers to scare consumers into thinking that the IRS is coming to audit them. Many people have undoubtedly fallen for the lies of IRS impersonators, giving up their hard-earned cash to the scammers, duped into paying “debts” and avoiding jail time.
However, if you get a phone call from the “IRS”, you have every reason to be skeptical— there’s a good chance that it’s a scam. Here are the facts:
According to its website, the IRS will NOT contact you by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Therefore, if you get such a message asking for information, it is NOT the IRS.
The IRS almost always contacts taxpayers through the United States Postal Service, in the form of letters or notices.
The IRS may call, or even visit your home or business, in the following circumstances: you have an overdue tax bill, there is a need to audit, or there is an ongoing criminal investigation. However, they almost always send notices in the mail before calling.
Yes, in some circumstances, the IRS may call you. However, they will NEVER do any of the following:
Demand immediate payment
Demand payment through gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfers.
Threaten you with jail time, a police visit, or by revoking your immigration status or driver’s license.
Refuse to allow you to question or appeal what you supposedly owe.
If the person calling you asks you to do any of the above, you can be sure that it is a scammer, and not the actual IRS.
At times, private debt collectors may take on the task of getting citizens to pay tax debt. Scammers have been known to pose as private debt collectors as well, so keep the following in mind:
The IRS will notify any person or business if their tax debt has been transferred to a private collector.
Collection agencies have to abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and must be courteous and respect taxpayer rights. If the person calling you on the phone is extremely rude, threatening, and demanding, that is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
Payments are to be made only to the U.S. Treasury, even when collected by a private collection agency. If the person calling you demands payment to any other entity, it is a scam.
At this time, there are known numbers corresponding to IRS scammers, thanks to citizens who have taken the time to report them. However, many scammers use a tactic called “spoofing” to hide their numbers. The only way to protect yourself from these calls is to use a call blocker equipped with technology for rejecting these types of calls. In case you do accidentally answer this type of call, hang up as soon as possible. Do not carry on a conversation with the scammer.
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