As information becomes more readily available, we, as a society, are forced to endure those who would use that information to gain access to our most intimate details. As Francis Bacon, the 16th-century politician/author stated: “Opportunity makes a thief.”
Most of the time, fear is an opportunity that a thief is ready to pounce on decisively. The perfect example of this opportunism transpired in a phone call I received this past weekend. I ignored the call because I didn’t recognize the number, but there was a voicemail so I indulged the caller and listened.
Much to my surprise, I owed the IRS money and because I had neglected to pay my taxes there was a pending lawsuit in the works. To make things worse, the IRS had issued a non-bail label arrest warrant with my name on it. But there was a way out. All I had to do was call the number they left and all my problems would go away. Sound familiar?
To the average person, this intrusion creates an overwhelming feeling of horror. Through the frenzy of it all, we will not hesitate to call this person back, because nobody wants problems with the IRS. This is exactly what the thief wants, though: complete hysteria.
If you were to call the number back, there will inevitably be a scammer on the other side indicating that you had failed to pay your taxes from a previous year. They will then ask you to pay the bill for the impending lawsuit to go away.
The problem is, half the time they will ask for you to pay with a money order or some other form of payment that is difficult to trace. They will prove their legitimacy by creating background noise, making it sound like they are calling from an IRS call center, and often will be calling from a Washington D.C.-based number.
Unfortunately, many people have fallen prey to this trick and possibly even forked over the money. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you have a trusted tax advisor to call, one who understands the IRS’ systems and collection processes.
With identity theft running rampant, I have received many calls from frantic clients asking for my representation. After listening to their experience, I ensured them this is a scam to get both their money and identity. I mean, why would the IRS call you to warn you of your impending arrest? Wouldn’t this give you time to call Uncle Tony for some quick getaway cash?
When you receive these calls, don’t fall victim to the deceit and end up losing money to IRS theft. The IRS has published some tax tips on their website of how to identify if the supposed IRS caller is a fake or if it is in fact, the IRS.
They list out five things that a bogus IRS caller will do that the ACTUAL IRS will not do. Those actions are:
- Call or demand that you pay them. In fact, they will never call you without first sending you a bill through the mail.
- Demand that you pay the taxes without first notifying you of your right as a taxpayer to appeal the amount in question.
- Require you to pay the tax due with a particular payment method. (i.e.,. Money Order, prepaid debit card, etc.).
- Ask for your credit or debit card number over the phone. They will usually refer you to their website for payment.
- Threaten to bring in local police or law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
The IRS has also asked that we do our part to put a stop to these thieves and IRS theft. We can all report these incidents to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). They can be reached at 1.800.366.4484 or www.tigta.gov.
Additionally, you can file a complaint with the FTC using the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes of the complaint. These measures will help curb IRS theft for everyone.
Let’s face it; taxes can be complicated and often feel scary but it doesn’t have to be that way. Anderson is trained and experienced in tax planning and resolving costly IRS issues. Contact our tax professionals to provide you with a resolution to your IRS or tax complications.