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Beware of tax scams as tax season approaches

It will be time to file your income taxes soon, so that means scam artists are hard at work trying to get your money.

The IRS is seeing two new types of tax-related scams, one dealing with Social Security numbers and the other a phony tax bill:

  • The SSN hustle. The latest twist includes scammers claiming to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s Social Security number. It may be associated with the IRS impersonation scam. Con artists try to frighten people into returning “robocall” voicemails. They may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN.
  • Fake tax agency. A letter threatens an IRS lien or levy, based on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency, the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” The lien notification scam also probably refers to the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a real federal agency.

Phone scams

The IRS doesn’t leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages. In many versions of the phone scam, victims are told if they don’t call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation, or revocation of licenses.

Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be from anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state motor vehicles departments, federal agencies, and others.

Email phishing scams

The IRS doesn’t email to request personal or financial information. Most contacts are through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. However, sometimes the IRS will call or come to a home or business. These visits include when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or the IRS needs to tour a business as part of a civil investigation, such as an audit or collection case, or during a criminal investigation. 

If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program linked to the IRS that’s fraudulent, report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

Telltale signs of a scam

The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Usually, the IRS will mail a bill to a taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should be made out to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made out to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

The IRS doesn’t use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.

For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov. Other sources of information include IRS social media sites and YouTube videos.

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