As we enter the full swing of the 2014 tax season, millions of people are busy filling out paperwork, filing their taxes, and waiting anxiously for their refund checks. But amid this flurry of activity, there are countless scammers out there who are salivating at the chance to get ahold of your hard-earned money. And they’ll do almost anything to accomplish this.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, yeah; scammers are always around, but I know how to avoid them. Mostly online stuff, right? Use my spam filter, never open attachments from someone I don’t know. The usual.” Well, you may want to reconsider, because this tax season scammers are targeting your phone—not your email—and they’re using the most basic of human emotions to get you to hand over your money: fear.
Think You Know All About Scams? Think Again.
According to Fraud.org’s 2013 Scam Report, the overwhelming majority of scams (36.36%) last year were initiated by phone, and more than 20% of victims fell in the 26-35 age bracket. This is important because in the past, scams were typically electronic (e.g. email, fake websites, malware, etc.) and targeted older individuals who may not have had the technological proficiency of younger generations.
With a new year, however, comes a new way of doing things. These new phone scammers may call you dozens of times in a row until you pick up, or they may leave extraordinarily threatening voicemails to get you to call them back. Whichever manner they use to get ahold of you though, once they do, they’ll claim that you (or someone in your household) owes the IRS money.
What Are Some Common Traits of these IRS Phone Scams?
For these new IRS scams, the perpetrators go to great lengths to appear official. This, in combination with threats and fear of reprisal, is intended to get you to act quickly. Instead of being fearful though, let’s take a look at some of most common features of these scams so that instead of being afraid, you can be an informed consumer:
First, these crooks will often utilize caller ID spoofing, which allows them to display any information they like on your caller ID, including name and phone number. This means that your once-trusty caller ID will no longer provide a good way to discern who’s actually calling you.
Next, these IRS scammers will often give their potential victims fake badge numbers, and will even send them official-looking emails that appear to have legitimately originated from the IRS. They may even know the last four digits of your social security number.
Last, they will almost always resort to threats if you hesitate to hand over your money, including arrest, jail time, and/or revocation of your driver’s license. Should you continue to hesitate or hang up, the scammers may even call you back pretending to be a police officer, and/or a representative from the DMV. And of course, your caller ID will always appear to back up their claims.
What Can You Do to Avoid Becoming an IRS Scam Victim?
With all this information in mind, what tips and tricks can you use to avoid becoming a victim of these IRS scams?
- The IRS will almost always contact you via mail. If you first receive contact via phone or email—regardless how official it may appear—this may be an immediate indication that it’s a scam.
- Furthermore, the IRS will never ask you to pay anything over the phone, or request credit card numbers, PINs, or prepaid debit cards.
- If you have no reason to believe you owe the IRS any money (or even if you do), hang up the phone and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. This is the only way to make absolutely sure.