Nothing is quite as intimidating as being contacted by the Internal Revenue Service. You know that you should not simply ignore it. You may first imagine the worst. Visions of actor Wesley Snipes being sentenced to prison for tax evasion come to mind. It may be a problem with a tax payment you previously made to the IRS. On the other hand, it could even be good news of an unexpected refund. In any case, you know that ignoring it is never a good policy.
Unfortunately, there are those who see this as an opportunity to gain access to your financial information in order to steal your identity and assets. The tax filing season is an especially active time of the year for these predators. Over the past several years, the communications have commonly arrived in the form of an e-mail purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service. The senders will fraudulently use the IRS name and logo to make the e-mail appear authentic.
Within the past few months, however, these predators have now adopted a more direct approach – a telephone call. A local resident recently received such a call which was a voice mail and she offered to share it with me. She also agreed that I could share it with my readers as well so that others will be on guard if they receive such a call. With background noise of a call center full of others making similar calls, the female caller with a heavy foreign accent left the following message:
“Sir, this is the office of the United States and I’m calling from the Crime Investigation Department of IRS. The very second you receive this message, I need you to leave your work aside and dial a number. The number is 202-204-6199. I’ll repeat it...202-204-6199. Now, if we don’t hear from you, then we’ll start legal action against you and liens, and the law enforcement of your state will be at your doorstep. Thank you and have a great day.”
Similar to the e-mails, these are tax scams which are designed to gain access to your personal and financial information in order to steal your identity and assets. If you answer this type of call, do not provide any information. If it is a voice mail, do not return the call. These are tax scams and are not a contact being initiated by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has recently issued several News Releases urging vigilance against these bogus phone calls as well as e-mails. As noted in the IRS News Releases:
The real IRS will not initiate contact with you by phone, e-mail, text or social media to ask for your personal or financial information.
The real IRS will not call you and demand immediate payment.
The real IRS will not require that you pay your taxes in a certain way, such as with a prepaid debit card.
The IRS also urges taxpayers to assist it in fighting these tax scams by reporting any fraudulent contacts to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration as well as to the Federal Trade Commission.
Of course, the IRS does routinely contact taxpayers through written correspondence concerning their tax matters. In the case of all legitimate contacts from the IRS or any other taxing authorities, it is important that you respond in a timely manner and you may wish to seek the assistance of professional tax counsel to help you through the process.