IRS Scam Alert
Elizabeth from Client Services here. In the last couple of months of 2017, you may have heard your friends talk about being contacted by someone posing as an IRS representative. Perhaps you yourself have spoken to someone claiming to be a debt collector or other government agent. There’s been a troubling increase in IRS phone and email scams, and it’s happening across the United States.
What are the scams?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine told me she got a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS debt collector. He insisted she owed hundreds of dollars to the government, and if she didn’t pay up immediately, they’d send the police to her house and her work to throw her in jail. A “police officer” pretending to be from her local troop also called to intimidate her and hammer the threat home. The number the fake officer used was the real phone number of the troop barracks. Fortunately, my friend knew better than to trust someone threatening her over the phone while asking for money. Unfortunately, many people have fallen victim to these scams, because they become more sophisticated every day. It’s not hard for a fraudster to spoof an email address or a phone number, and their scare tactics often make people afraid NOT to pay.
There’s another kind of scam which relies not on threats, but on reward. You get an email telling you you’re owed X number of dollars from the IRS, or that your “refund is being processed,” and you should enter your personal and banking info into a [spoofed] webpage in order to receive this money. The IRS issued a statement about this scam on December 13th. It’s easy to see how someone could be tricked by such an email during tax season, but the thought of extra cash is attractive at any time of year.
IRS dos and don’ts
If you’re ever unsure about the legitimacy of an email or a phone call, contact Apex at 401-277-3000: our priority is protecting you and your data. If we find that you’ve been contacted by a scammer, you should call the IRS directly at 1-800-366-4484. They want you to report phishing attempts, because it helps them crack down on scammers and keep the public informed. The IRS also has some general dos and don’ts that are useful to know:
- The IRS will NOT initiate contact with you via email, text message, or social media.
- The IRS will send official letters through the USPS before making phone calls or visits.
- If someone from the IRS comes to your home or work, you are entitled to see two forms of ID: an HSPD-12 card and a pocket commission card.
- The IRS will NOT threaten you with law enforcement or immigration.
- All collection requests will first be given in written notice.
- You will be given the opportunity to appeal or question what you owe.
- The IRS will NOT ask for your financial information (credit card info, account numbers, etc.) over the phone or demand that you pay them immediately via gift card or wire transfer.
- You’ll be mailed a bill and follow-up letters requesting fund before you are contacted over the phone or in person.
- The IRS will NOT alert you to change your tax information, billing info, contact info, etc., via email, text message, or social media.
- All requests of any kind will be first made via official mail.
- The IRS will NOT tell you you’re owed money via email, text message, or social media, and they won’t ask you for your bank information in order to directly deposit that check.
- You’ll receive an official check directly from the IRS in the mail.
The bottom line? If you owe money to the IRS, you will get several letters before an unannounced visit, not threats of jail over the phone. If the IRS owes you money (don’t we all wish), you will get an official check from the IRS, not calls or emails asking for your bank routing information. If you’d like to learn more, or if you’re worried you’ve been the victim of a scam, call Apex at 401-277-3000. You can also go to the official IRS website where they have a wealth of information regarding their official procedure, how to avoid a scam, and what to do if you’ve been conned. It’s better to be safe than sorry, when sorry could mean having your identity or your life savings stolen.