When is The Tax Man Not the Tax Man?
Imagine this. You have just come home from the park with your grandkids. As your 3-year-old granddaughter plays on the floor with her toys and your 8-year-old grandson reads at the table, you receive a phone call.
Your heart skips a beat when you hear who is on the other end of the line. It’s the IRS and they are calling to tell you that they haven’t received your tax payment.
Always skeptical, you ask for their title and badge number and they respond without hesitation. The man on the phone seems confident and professional.
In the background, your granddaughter is starting to get fussy and the man on the phone is becoming increasingly insistent. If you don’t take care of the bill today, they are going to have to send the Sherriff to your house with a warrant.
As the conversation continues, the “agent” insists that you pay the full amount now, via prepaid card or credit card.
Now, reading this, it’s easy to see the scam for what it is. But, in the heat of the moment, with two grandkids playing (or fighting) in the background and a high-pressure scam-artist on the phone, you might not be so lucky!
How to Tell When the Tax Man is Not the Tax Man
Of course, we all take our tax obligations seriously. But, we also don’t want to be taken advantage of. So, here are a few things that the IRS will never do (according to their own website):
- Ask you over the phone for immediate payment of your taxes. They will also send you a letter before contacting you.
- Claim that you have no right to question the amount that you owe.
- Ask for your credit card details – or for you to pay via pre-paid card – over the phone
- Threaten you with arrest or other immediate consequences
- Senior scams are a big deal and they are impacting consumers and businesses alike. But, if we all stay vigilant, we can put scammers in their place.
Professions Now Being Targeted by IRS Scammers Too
Nor are these scammers limiting themselves to consumers. There are even several new scam emails targeting tax professionals. Here are a few examples, courtesy of the IRS:
“Happy new year to you and yours. I want you to help us file our tax return this year as our previous CPA/account passed away in October. How much will this cost us?…hope to hear from you soon.”
“Please kindly look into this issue, A friend of mine introduced you to me, regarding the job you did for him on his 2017 tax. I tried to reach you by phone earlier today but it was not connecting, attach is my information needed for my tax to be filed if you need any more Details please feel free to contact me as soon as possible and also send me your direct Tel-number to rich (sic) you on.”
In both cases, the goal of the scammers is to get the tax professional to click on a link that will install malware on their computer. If they are successful, they will steal the tax professional’s clients’ data, which they can use in additional scams.
As their focus on professionals shows, scammers are continuing to get more sophisticated in their attempts to separate us from our money. The best thing that we can do is to keep our eyes and ears open for danger signs.
And, don’t forget, you can always contact the IRS directly if you have any questions.