With income tax season in full force, families are frantically filing their returns online in hopes of having their refunds before Spring Break. Unfortunately, the likelihood an innocent tax filer will fall victim to fraud is stronger than ever this time of year.
Just ask Attorney General Aaron D. Ford, who received a scam phone call himself.
From spoofing phone numbers to make it look like they are calling locally, to sending emails from the IRS that seem so real even the savviest consumer can fall victim, scammers are evolving with technology.
How Tax Scams Work
According to Ford, there are many ways scammers are defrauding taxpayers out of their rightfully owed refund checks. One ways is emailing millions of individuals a security link supposedly from the victim’s bank or credit card issuer. Once the account owner logs in and verifies information, the scammer now has enough to file fraudulent tax returns.
Emails purportedly containing tax transcripts are also growing in popularity, according to IRS officials.
Phone calls are still the most popular method of duping individuals out of money. Individuals will call from what appears to be a local number, claiming to be an IRS agent attempting to collect back taxes. These fraudsters, who may have a Middle Eastern or Asian accent, will threaten jail or tax refund offset unless money is wired through Western Union or MoneyGram.
Internal Revenue Service communications will always be by mail, and they will never call and threaten jail time. If they do visit you at home, they will always offer two forms of official identification: an HSPD-12 card, and their pocket commission.
Protecting Yourself from Tax Scams
In an effort to protect Nevada tax filers this year, Ford wants to remind consumers to take the necessary precautions when filing taxes or transacting online.
If anything sounds too good to be true, it normally is. The allure of easy money, or the fear of being imprisoned, is enough to scare innocent people out of thousands of dollars.
Should an incoming call look suspicious, answer it and notate the number. Since many scammers use Voice over IP (VoIP) numbers issued by Google Voice to perpetrate their frauds, tracking them down is virtually impossible. However, call the IRS and report the attempted scam so they have record of it happening to you.
Legitimate IRS collection efforts will always direct debtors to make payments to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Written notice of any third-party collection efforts will be given to the taxpayer prior to the account being transferred for collection.
IRS CP2000 notices, which inform taxpayers that income stated on tax returns does not match the reporting source, are almost always sent electronically by the IRS. If you are sent a similar form and are told to send payment or personal information to an Austin, Texas address, it is probably a scam.
Finally, as a rule, never accept email communications from individuals you do not know. If an unknown sender send you a suspicious email that contains an attachment, immediately report it as spam.
Victims Have Few Options
Those who operate foreign IRS call centers targeting U.S. consumers are often the toughest to bring to justice – let alone collect restitution for victims from. In a recent call center sting that netted 24 arrests across America, millions were stolen from thousands of American victims, although victims may never see one penny returned.
If you have been scammed by individuals from another country claiming to be IRS agents, the best recourse victims have is to report the crime to IC3, the IRS and their local law enforcement agency.
Those who are under investigation for tax fraud, computer crimes or other white collar crimes should immediately retain an experienced criminal defense attorney.