On the prowl for tax scammers
There’s been a lot of talk in the real news about fake news lately. But some fake things really torque off Dana Davis more than others. Like fake tax collectors.
Davis, a California, Md., resident, is district coordinator of the St. Mary’s County AARP Tax-Aide Program, and has been volunteering with that for a decade. Before that, she spent 10 years with the federal government’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
She knows what she’s talking about as a career number-cruncher, and uses good old common sense to help the taxpaying public — especially senior citizens living on fixed incomes — avoid the charlatans.
And she just issued her latest warning. She relayed the Internal Revenue Service’s caution to be on the lookout for an array of evolving tax scams related to identity theft and refund fraud.
She says some of the most prevalent IRS impersonation scams include:
• Requesting fake tax payments. The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Taxpayers may also receive live calls from IRS impersonators.
• Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax.” Telephone scammers are targeting students and parents demanding payments for fictitious taxes. If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
• Sending a fraudulent IRS bill for tax year 2015 related to the Affordable Care Act. The IRS has received numerous reports around the country of scammers sending a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015.
• Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals.
• Imitating software providers to trick tax professionals. Tax professionals may receive emails pretending to be from tax software companies. The email scheme requests the recipient download and install an important software update via a link included in the email. Upon completion, tax professionals believe they have downloaded a software update when in fact they have loaded a program designed to track the tax professional’s keystrokes, which is a common tactic used by cyber thieves to steal login information, passwords and other sensitive data.
• “Verifying” tax return information over the phone. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information.
• Pretending to be tax preparers.
Davis says the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer or initiate contact by email or text message. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
Likewise, they won’t threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying. Nor will they ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. See the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-3664484.
If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
And Davis invited anyone with a tax scam question to call her at 301-8632561. She’s always on the prowl to catch the bad guys.