Community Voices

Crime Watch: Beware of telephone scammers who pretend to be with the IRS

This information was sent to me by one of my Crime Watchers, accountant Chuck Ross, who wanted me to share with my readers. The Internal Revenue Service has issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shakedown calls are not how we do business.”

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 we 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, 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 (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

In closing, I want to remind everyone that New Years Eve is a great night but it also brings its dangers, like shooting off guns in the air. If you hear any gunfire please call your local police immediately. For the “knuckleheads” out there, remember that what goes up must come down, therefore hitting someone below including your own family member. Happy Year to all.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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