Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers utilize regular mail, telephone, and emails to defraud individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals. 

Be aware that the IRS will not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam

A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers and sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers.

Telephone Scams to be Aware of:

  • Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.
  • Victims are told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
  • Scam artists call saying they have your tax return and need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
  • Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things.

E-mail, Phishing and Malware Tax Schemes

Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. 

These emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may ask about a wide range of topics. E-mails may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, and verifying PIN information. Links within the e-mails may take you to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as where you may be asked for your Social Security number and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites may also carry malware, which can infect people’s computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information. Variations of these scams can also be seen via text messages (aka Smishing as in SMS phishing).  For more information about phishing and smishing, please refer to these security awareness videos.

Note that the IRS will not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

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