Tax season may have ended a few months ago, but that’s not stopping con artists. The Internal Revenue Service has warned taxpayers and tax preparation firms against new scams as losses surpass the $20 million mark.
“We continue to see these aggressive tax scams across the country,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “Scam artists specialize in being deceptive and fooling people. The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra cautious and think twice before answering suspicious phone calls, emails or letters.”
These new schemes can occur over the phone, through e-mails, or even in letters that bear authentic-looking letterheads. The goal of these missives is to trick people into offering up their personal financial information, or scare them into making false tax payments that go in the con artist’s pocket.
“There are many scams to retrieve personal information from unsuspecting individuals and businesses,” says Catrina Payne, CPA andamp; Partner, Klein Hall CPAs LLC. “For the unsuspecting consumer, this is daunting, but it need not be. Partnering with a trustworthy and professional CPA throughout the year will aid in protecting your personal information and help you stay informed of the latest scams. The goal of every CPA is peace of mind for their client.”
One such e-mail scam has hit Charlotte, North Carolina. In an email, a purported tax officer or inspector claims that there’s an issue with the recipient’s taxes, and the only way to avoid the fees is to contact the tax officer. The e-mails were sent to scores of citizens, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Joel Wing, an investigative reporter, and even to a local tax accountant.
One con artist even fleeced a Florida-woman out of $19,500, who then had little to no chance of getting her money back. The scammer, who claimed to be with the Internal Revenue Service, left a voicemail on her home phone, and when she returned the call, the con artist told her she owed $5,450 in back taxes from 2010 to 2014. If she didn’t pay them in 20 minutes, the scammer told her she’d be arrested. In order to comply, she had to go to a local grocery store, and purchase multiple reloadable prepaid cards, which she did. Then, the scammer called again, and told her she had to pay another $14,500 as a result of issues with her 2008 to 2010 tax returns via wire transfer if she didn’t want to be arrested. In order to get the money, the victim used her retirement savings, and had to also send a picture of her driver’s license in an email to the account: email@example.com.
Since October 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of about 600,000 contacts. TIGTA is also aware of over 4,000 victims, who have collectively reported more than $20 million in financial losses because of tax scams.
Accounting Today reports that scammers often do one or more of fives things that the IRS would never do, including:
Demanding immediate payment over the phone
Threaten to arrest
Refusing to give the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed
Requiring specific payment methods
Asking for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
If con artists have targeted you, contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov, adding “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
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