IRS has warned repeatedly of a massive, sophisticated telephone scam. IRS warned of this scheme last October and February and again on March 20.
The scam’s victims are contacted by telephone and usually told that they are entitled to big refunds or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to IRS. The scammers may be able to say the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number. They may have it set up to show a false IRS toll-free telephone number on the victim’s telephone ID. They may even send bogus, official-looking IRS emails to support their calls and fool the victims into believing it is really IRS calling.
Sometimes the scammers are insulting or even hostile and threatening. That is an effort to scare the potential victims. The scammers frequently threaten the victims with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off or even having their drivers license revoked. The scammers may threaten the victim with jail time and then hang up. Then other scammers call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV. This scam is particularly terrible since it frequently targets recent immigrants and other taxpayers that have not dealt with IRS very much.
IRS does not begin or initiate contact with taxpayers by email or text messages or use other social media channels to request personal or financial information. IRS does not ask for PINs, passwords or other confidential access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.
If you or someone you know gets a telephone call from someone who claims to be with the IRS, there are some things to be done. First, call IRS at 1-800-829-1040 if you know or think you might owe some taxes. Plan to stay on the telephone awhile and try to enjoy their music while you wait. But an IRS employee will help you discover the real facts and if necessary set up an Installment Payment Agreement with monthly payments you can afford.
If you or your friend do not owe taxes or have no reason to think taxes are owed, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484. Again, budget or plan to be on the phone awhile. Of course it will help if you have notes of the day and time of the telephone call along with your best recollection of what was said by the scammers.
The National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov is available to try to stop telemarketing calls at your home. You need a computer to register but it is fairly easy. Or you can try calling 1-888-3825-1222 from the phone number you want listed.
Did you hear? “There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.” — Archibald Mac Leish.
John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.