Warnings about tax scam phone calls have been issued by both the IRS and the Utah State Tax Commission (USTC) recently.
This most recent swindle tops the list of the worst tax frauds, as it has remained a persistent problem for the last few years. In fact, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), phone scammers have conned more than 5,500 people out of approximately $29 million since October of 2013.
Don’t be the next victim. Learn how to protect yourself from fraudulent tax phone calls.
How Tax Scam Phone Calls Work
Your phone rings, and the caller ID shows that the IRS, the USTC or even the U.S. Department of the Treasury is on the line. So of course, you answer.
The caller claims to be an agent and informs you that you owe money in back taxes. He or she goes on to warn that you must pay immediately, using a prepaid debit card, money order or wire transfer. If you don’t, the caller insists that you will face legal action and a variety of dire consequences.
These scammers don’t hesitate to hit where it hurts most, telling you that you could lose your business or driver’s license or worse, you could be arrested or even deported.
The altered caller ID is what makes many people believe these calls are real. But the phony tax representatives are also quite convincing and aggressive. And scammers often know personal details that make the call seem plausible.
They may even know the last four digits of your Social Security number.
How to Know Tax Phone Calls Are Fraudulent
So with this sophisticated technology and convincing performance, how can you tell if your tax phone call is a scam? Isn’t there a chance, after all, that you might somehow owe back taxes that you’ve somehow overlooked?
Certainly that might be true. However, if you do have a tax issue, you’ll first be contacted by mail. In addition, employees of the IRS, USTC and the Treasury will never demand immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. They will never make threats or discuss the consequences of what might happen if you fail to pay.
And — here’s the biggest red flag of all — no legitimate representatives of these departments will ever insist on specific payment methods, especially prepaid debit, Western Union or money orders.
What to Do if You Get Tax Scam Phone Calls
Hang up immediately.
Do not say anything and do not give out any information. If you think you may owe back taxes, contact your accountant or attorney, or call the IRS or USTC directly. Next, call TIGTA or visit their website to complete the IRS Impersonation Scam form.
You also may wish to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission through the FTC Complaint Assistant form.
Finally, as senior citizens are especially vulnerable to these scams, please take a moment to talk with your older family members, neighbors and friends to explain this pervasive threat.
For more information and advice on this or other suspected fraud schemes, contact the experienced attorneys at Lewis Adams & Associates of West Jordan, Utah. We care and want to make sure you and your loved ones never fall victim to these horrible tax scam phone calls.