As tax season hits full swing, the IRS is warning consumers that scammers are out there looking to prey on victims. It appears that both email and phone tax scams are big this year, with the IRS reporting an uptick in reports of scams in both categories in 2015.
IRS-Impersonation phone tax scams
The IRS reports that a sophisticated phone tax scam targeting recent immigrants among others, has been seen in all parts of the country. These scamming callers claim to be employees of the IRS. Con artists often sound very convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS ID numbers. In many cases, they already know a lot about their targets, and they can even alter the caller ID on the phone to make it appear like the IRS is calling.
Victims of these phone tax scams are told they owe money to the IRS, and it must be paid promptly using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer to avoid fines or even jail. If the target does not agree to pay, they are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of their driver’s license. Sometimes the scammer even becomes hostile or insulting.
In other cases, victims have been told they have a refund coming to them to fool them into sharing personal information.
The IRS reminds consumers that the agency will never: “1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.”
Phone fraud major problem in Tennessee
The IRS also reports that phone tax scams are a major problem in Tennessee this year. There have been several reports of consumers failing to get their refunds in Knoxville because a scammer already had filed a phony tax return using their name.
By far the biggest problem in Tennessee is telephone scammers who are calling people and getting them to pay tax bills they don’t owe, according to IRS Tennessee spokesman Mark Green.
“Telephone fraud is very rampant in East Tennessee, and it’s one of the longer scams I have seen,” he noted. “It’s been going on for a while, and has been tweaked several times. The common denominator is to get people to give their Social Security numbers to the caller, and to get them to pay on a tax bill they don’t owe.”