June 15, 2024

Featured Image: A snippet of form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return as seen in New York on July 24, 2018 (Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (via WCMH) — Renowned statesman Benjamin Franklin once remarked, “Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.” In the same vein, it’s almost guaranteed that with the nearing of the annual tax-filing deadline on April 15, scammers are eagerly awaiting to steal your refund. They employ a range of deceptive maneuvers, including impersonating IRS agents to coerce people into paying money or revealing sensitive data.

According to Tony Westendorf, Special Agent for IRS Criminal Investigations, these sham “imposter scams” often commence via a phone call. The fraudster, posing as an “agent,” claims you have unpaid taxes and pushes you to settle immediately via prepaid debit card or wire transfer; failure to do so can result in hefty fines or even arrest, they warn.

Westendorf keenly points out that the IRS will never resort to such tactics. “The IRS isn’t going to call and threaten you, nor insist on a specific payment method,” he says.

Backing him up, IRS Spokesman, Luis Garcia adds, “Neither will we press you to make an on-the-spot payment”.

Garcia advises taxpayers to be cautious about the IRS’s mode of communication. Any legitimate communication you receive from them is typically delivered through regular mail, not other channels

“If anyone claiming to be from the IRS contacts you through unusual channels, you can be sure it’s a scam,” says Garcia. “Feel free to hang up on them, or slam the door in their face.”

Westendorf concurs, emphasizing that the IRS will never send unsolicited social media messages, text messages, or emails containing links.

If you receive a letter purporting to be from the IRS, be sure to verify the contact information provided against those listed on irs.gov.

Here are a few more words of advice from the agency:

  • Disregard any email alleging to be from the IRS. Don’t click on embedded links, as they could lead to malware.
  • Never disclose your personal information over the phone to protect yourself from identity theft.
  • Report any suspicious contact to the IRS and the Office of the Inspector General.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I protect myself against IRS imposter scams?

Besides following the advice given above, you should also avoid giving out personal information over the phone or through emails. Practicing internet safety and having strong, unique passwords can also help protect you. Furthermore, reporting any suspicious contact to the IRS and the Office of the Inspector General can help authorities investigate and tackle such scams.

How can I confirm if a call or letter is genuinely from the IRS?

The IRS usually communicates through regular mail and will not call or email you without prior notice. If you receive unsolicited calls or emails claiming to be from the IRS, they’re likely scams. If you have doubts about a given letter, validate the contact information provided against those on the official IRS website.

What should I do if I fall victim to an imposter scam?

You should immediately report the incident to the IRS and the Office of the Inspector General. If you have shared any personal information, consider steps to protect your identity. These can include monitoring your credit reports, placing fraud alerts with credit bureaus, and changing your online passwords.