No one wants to be on the wrong side of the IRS, which is why, each year, in the months leading up to the May 17 extended tax filing deadline, scammers come out in full force to take advantage of the worries and fears of American taxpayers.
Tax scammers utilize three effective lines of attack—by phone, email phishing and mail scams. There’s nothing to stop them other than your vigilance and caution. Here’s what you need to know to fend off a tax scam.
IRS phone scams can come in many forms. The critical thing to know is the IRS never, ever attempts to contact taxpayers by phone. That also means it never sends text messages or leaves prerecorded messages. If you receive a call, text message, or prerecorded message from a person claiming to be an IRS representative, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 or www.tigta.gov.
Email Phishing Scam
An email phishing scam attempts to extract sensitive information by disguising emails to look official as if they are coming from a government agency or financial institution. You need to know that the IRS never contacts taxpayers by email. If you receive such an email, forward it immediately to the IRS at [email protected] with the subject line “IRS Impersonation Scam.”
IRS Mail Scam
Phony IRS letters may be more challenging to detect, but there are ways to tell the difference between legitimate and fake IRS mail.
First, a real IRS letter comes in a government envelope with the IRS seal prominently displayed. Second, the letter should include a notice number in the upper right corner.
Inside the letter, you will find the IRS contact information, including an 800 number. There should also be a statement of your taxpayer rights. Finally, if the letter’s purpose is to collect past due taxes, it should include a list of payment options, including an option to make an online payment at www.IRS.gov/payments. A sure indication the letter is fake is if it provides the option of mailing a payment to any location other than the U.S. Treasury Department, or offers a phone payment using a credit card.