One thing you can say for scammers—they react quickly as people become aware of one form of scam and move on to vary their approach so the mark is now confused that this call might be a real issue. In News Release `IR-2016-81 the IRS noted that scammers have now moved on to making dunning calls for a non-existent tax, not just a non-existent tax bill.
In the latest scam to be described by the IRS, the caller claims the taxpayer has an unpaid “student tax” for which payment must be made immediately. In one sense this sort of attack is a stroke of genius, since there are individuals that owe taxes, student loans or both, so this sort of confused combination likely dupes people who now are no longer sure what is being asked for. As well, actual students often are used to interacting with the tax system, and so won’t as quickly recognize that the IRS simply doesn’t function in that manner.
As always, the demand is for immediate payment via odd means, such as the purchase of prepaid debit cards.
As the news release notes:
In this newest twist, they try to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake “federal student tax”, the scammer threatens to report the student to the police.
This almost certainly will not be the end of the variations that scammers will use to convince people that the call they are receiving is not the type of scam call that has gotten widespread press coverage.
The release goes on to give the following advice that advisers may want to forward on all clients:
Scam artists frequently masquerade as being from the IRS, a tax company and sometimes even a state revenue department. Many scammers use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:
- Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes gift card.
- Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals (IR-2016-34)
- “Verifying” tax return information over the phone (IR-2016-40)
- Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry (IR-2016-28)
The IRS urges taxpayers to stay vigilant against these calls and to know the telltale signs of a scam demanding payment.
The IRS Will Never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- 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.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting FTC.gov and clicking on “File a Consumer Complaint.” Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.