IRS scams have been around for a long time. Now, to clarify, I am speaking about the crooks that pretend they are the IRS, not the crooks in the IRS. That's a whole different article.
It is estimated that victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million in the past 3 years. Tax scams have been increasing every year; the IRS said that they saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season. As technology advances, so do the criminals.
There are all different kinds of schemes that are used by these criminals. Telephone calls and emails have been the most popular so far, but they've smartened up and are now scamming people through the mail — which is the way the IRS actually corresponds with taxpayers.
The phone calls
I had heard about these calls; about people giving out their social security numbers or running to the store to buy iTunes gift cards to pay off their supposed tax debt. Part of me couldn't believe anyone would actually fall victim to such preposterous scams…until I actually spoke to the scammers.
I wanted to experience one of these calls, so started looking for IRS scam phone numbers on the web. I ended up playing along as a scared taxpayer and spoke with two different people. I could see how both could sound convincing to someone unfamiliar with how the IRS operates. The were both very aggressive and told me that there was a warrant out for my arrest for failure to pay my tax debt.
They told me that I was not to speak to a third party about this tax debt, and that I needed to pay immediately. The second man I spoke to, actually told me to get in my car while I was on the phone with him to drive to Target to get a prepaid credit card to pay off the debt. I walked away from that call with a much different perspective of how easily someone could be fooled.
Scam emails are designed to trick people into thinking that they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The emails seek information related to refunds, filing status, personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
When people click on the links in the email, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, like IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect your computer and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
If you receive an email from the IRS, it's best not to open it or click any of the links on it. The IRS has stated that they do not initiate contact with taxpayers by email.
Which brings us to…
Snail mail – Fake CP2000's
The IRS has said again and again that they will not call or email taxpayers to communicate with them. They stress that they will contact taxpayers by good old fashioned mail. So, the scammers caught on, and the latest fraud is fake IRS notices sent out via the United States Post Office. The notice, a CP2000, states that money is owed for unpaid taxes related to the Affordable Care Act. I think this is perfect, because who actually understands of the intricacies of Obamacare?!
Take a look at the fake compared to a real CP2000 notice. If we hadn't pointed out the errors, do you think you could tell which was real?
I was surprised when we got our hands on one of the fake letters; it looks pretty legit. I also thought it was smart of the scammers to only ask for $325.00…a reasonable amount. And if someone took the time to call the IRS to see if they owed this money, there's a good possibility they would be put on hold for 2 hours before getting a "courtesy disconnect" due to long hold times. Do that a couple of times and you may throw your hands up in the air and just mail a check.
If you get a CP2000 in the mail, take the time to contact the IRS to see if you actually owe any money. A red flag to watch out for: the fake CP2000 says to make the check out to "I.R.S.". A real notice would say to make the check out to the United States Treasure.
Moving forward, things could get confusing. The IRS just hired four outside debt collection agencies to contact taxpayers that owe money. And guess what? These collection agencies will make phone calls to people to collect on the debts.
When in doubt, call the IRS or check out their scam page for the latest updates on what the scammers are doing.
If you have a tax debt you need assistance with, contact us to schedule a free, confidential consultation at 888-727-8796 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're not sure if you actually do have a debt – click here for more information.