IRS warns about tax-related ID theft, phone scams

Stock image, St. George News

PHOENIX, Arizona — The Internal Revenue Service issued a filing season alert warning taxpayers to watch out for identity theft and phone scams at tax time, which are some of the year’s Dirty Dozen tax scams.

“We remain dedicated to stopping tax-related identity theft and protecting taxpayers, and we are making important progress on that front. Taxpayers still need to be extremely careful and do everything they can to avoid becoming a victim,” said John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner.

The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so.

This year for the first time, the IRS will issue the individual Dirty Dozen scams from Jan. 22-Feb. 6 to raise consumer awareness. The news releases will be available on the IRS website each day.

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain near the top of the annual Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season.

Phone scams

The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things.

“If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” said Koskinen. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business.”

Scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They often leave urgent callback requests. They prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. Scammers have been known to impersonate agents from IRS Criminal Investigation as well.

“These criminals try to scare and shock you into providing personal financial information on the spot while you are off guard,” Koskinen said. “Don’t be taken in and don’t engage these people over the phone.”

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have collectively paid over $14 million as a result of the scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.

Protect Yourself

As telephone scams continue across the country, the IRS recently put out a new YouTube video with a renewed warning to taxpayers not to be fooled by imposters posing as tax agency representatives. The new Tax Scams video describes some basic tips to help protect taxpayers from tax scams.

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by phone at 1-800-366-4484 or online.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their online FTC Complaint Assistant at the Federal Trade Commission website. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

The IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest, as well as possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice, also known as DOJ, to shutdown cams and prosecute the criminals behind them. Taxpayers should remember that they are legally responsible for what is on their tax returns even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task.

“We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues,” Koskinen said. “Taxpayers should protect their computers and only give out their Social Security numbers when absolutely necessary.”

Identity theft

As a result of these aggressive efforts to combat identity theft from 2011 through October 2014, the IRS has stopped 19 million suspicious returns and protected over $63 billion in fraudulent refunds.

For 2015, the IRS will continue to increase both the number and efficiency of the identity theft data models and filters that are used to identify potentially fraudulent returns. These pre-refund filters stop the vast majority of fraudulent returns. Additionally, the IRS continues to expand its partnerships with financial institutions to identity and stop fraudulent refunds.

IRS Criminal Investigation continues its robust efforts, and in Fiscal Year 2014, the IRS initiated 1,063 identity theft-related investigations. Criminal Investigation enforcement efforts resulted in 748 sentencings as compared to 438 in FY 2013, an increase of 75 percent.  Our incarceration rate rose to 87.7 percent as compared to 80.6 percent in FY 2013. The courts imposed significant jail time with the average months to serve in FY 2014 at 43 months as compared to 38 months in FY 2013 with the longest sentencing being 27 years.

In an effort to help victims, the IRS has issued approximately 1.5 million Identity Protection PINs, also referred to as IP PINs. The IP PIN is a unique, six-digit number that is assigned annually to victims of identity theft with resolved cases for use when filing their federal tax return.  The IP PIN will allow these individuals to avoid delays in filing returns and receiving refunds.

This year, the IRS will continue its IP PIN pilot program that allows taxpayers who filed tax returns last year from Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia to opt into the IP PIN program. Additionally, the IRS is offering approximately 1.7 million taxpayers the opportunity to opt in to the IP PIN program in instances where the IRS has identified indications of identity theft on their accounts.

The IRS understands that identity theft is a frustrating, complex process for victims. While identity thieves steal information from sources outside the tax system, the IRS is often the first to inform a victim that identity theft has occurred. The IRS is working hard to resolve identity theft cases as quickly as possible.

The IRS offers the following tips as ways to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
  • Protect your financial information.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Review your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

Resources

Related posts

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

21 Comments

  • One for the road January 27, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Dang tweekers

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic January 27, 2015 at 9:16 am

      FYI OFTR, this is the last tweeker post I’m approving – it’s overcooked, no pun intended.
      Respectfully,
      JK
      EIC

      • Brian January 27, 2015 at 9:33 am

        Bless you!

      • Brian January 27, 2015 at 9:36 am

        And while you’re at it, how about putting the brakes on all the “magic undies” anti-mormon rhetoric? I’m not big on censorship, but as a private entity you have the right (and perhaps responsibility to your readers) to have a comments section that is constructive, relevant, and furthers the discussion on the subject at hand. The vast majority of those comments do none of those. Thanks for a good site and reporting.

        • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic January 27, 2015 at 10:02 am

          Brian, I try to nudge them to govern themselves first. Perhaps they will take note of your admonition. Let’s watch and see?
          JK
          EIC

        • Bunny2015 January 27, 2015 at 11:17 am

          trust me Bri, this comments on this site are way more constructive than elsewhere. If u wanna see real garbage look at KSL’s comments…

        • tight magic undies January 27, 2015 at 9:12 pm

          “I’m not big on censorship, but” . Yeah right. In other words, if it’s not pro LDS, I don’t wanna hear it. Get over yourself.

          • Car4sale January 28, 2015 at 3:30 am

            That. Brian guy sure is one narrow minded religious bigot isn’t he.? It’s okay to say anything you want as long as it meets the approved of his bigoted group of haters. Typical Mormon

      • One for the road January 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

        Well so much for having fun with friends here…..

        • ladybugavenger January 27, 2015 at 2:28 pm

          Cheers… I suppose I’ll have to find something else to do in St. George. I’m gonna drive around and look for a donut shop or look for pictures in the clouds, I bet I’ll find a donut there.

          • Car4sale January 28, 2015 at 3:17 am

            Maybe we could use the term gosh darn sniffers..

        • Car4sale January 28, 2015 at 3:35 am

          Well it seems it’s going to come to just a chosen few that will be able to say what they want to. and the rest of us will be censored for everything and anything we attempt to say I guess that’s what happens when you don’t belong to a ward

      • DesertBill January 27, 2015 at 12:42 pm

        Thanks!

    • Car4sale January 28, 2015 at 3:18 am

      No more … I guess
      Ed. ellipsis.

  • Brian January 27, 2015 at 8:25 am

    The biggest scam during tax time is perpetrated by the IRS / federal government. The income tax should be abolished and replaced by a national sales tax. This takes the burden and complexity out of the taxes and reduces the tax code from 80,000 pages to one, makes April 15th just another day of the year, and removes loopholes and abuse (which the IRS is now famous for). It means everyone pays their fair share (the rich spend far more than the poor), including churches, “non-profits”, etc, which is as it should be, since they benefit from roads, police, and fire protection just like the rest of us. It encourages saving and responsible living. Zero deductions, write-offs, or exceptions (contrast that with the current tax code, which is wielded like a sword against many, often for political purposes). A VAT (value-added-tax) is a horrible idea and should be avoided like the plague. The tax should be simple and on all end-user purchases, without exception. The nice thing about this is that tourists pay taxes while they’re here, as they should, because they are enjoying all the benefits while they’re here. Easy peasy. And it will never happen due to one thing: corruption.

    • Bunny2015 January 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

      this is called a regressive tax… all you anti-gubmunt types have been railing on about it for years, and it’s the same old joke…

      • Brian January 27, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        Actually it isn’t, at all. Though I didn’t go into it in my comment, the Fair Tax includes a prebate that covers basic needs up to the poverty level (everyone gets the prebate). So this has no more impact on those below the poverty level than the current tax system: zero. What it does is take all of negatives and abuse out of our current tax system, turns April 15th into just another day, and frees up all of that overhead, time, and stress to be spent on more productive things. If you’d ever owned a business you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. Dealing with the IRS is a nightmare.

        • Bunny2015 January 27, 2015 at 7:13 pm

          on that we can agree

  • short crick blockhead January 27, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Here in my neck of the woods, these scammers don’t do so well. We here at the crick are masters at scamming the IRS, not the average people. These scammers do not like competition. Hahaha….

  • My Evil Twin January 27, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I was thinking as I was reading this article that the IRS does have a vested interest in seeing to it that the taxpayer doesn’t get scammed. By anybody ELSE.

  • Sharon January 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    The bulk of Tax ID Theft comes from medical records, social services and government databases and employees. See hundreds of reports at

    https://twitter.com/ancestralmanor

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.