For the Weekly Record Herald
COLUMBUS — The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today to help taxpayers protect themselves from scammers posing as IRS employees.
“If you receive a threatening call out of the blue from someone who says you must pay your IRS tax bill immediately or else — assume it’s a scam,” said IRS spokesman Jennifer Jenkins. “Bona fide IRS collections staff advise taxpayers of their right to challenge or appeal a tax bill. An IRS employee should not demand immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, either. Instead, he or she should offer several payment options, to include an installment plan.”
The IRS says as more people have learned of the scam calls, criminals have started mailing, faxing or emailing falsified forms, notices and letters to taxpayers.
“The phone scam remains a threat, but taxpayers need to know that the phone scam isn’t the only game that scammers are playing this summer,” Jenkins said. “Lately, they’re sending fake documents by mail and electronically to trick taxpayers into sending money or ‘verifying’ personal information that is then used to commit tax refund fraud.”
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. “Each year, thousands of taxpayers report they’ve received emails claiming to be from the IRS. Don’t reply, open any attachments or click on any links. Instead, forward the email to email@example.com and then delete it,” Jenkins said.
The IRS advises taxpayers to scrutinize any written correspondence received. “Just because the IRS website address is listed on a letter or fax, that’s no guarantee that what you’ve received is legit,” said Jenkins. Fraudsters have been known to modify legitimate IRS letters. Taxpayers who receive a suspicious-looking letter, notice or form via mail or fax from the IRS should go to the IRS home page and search on the letter, notice or form number. Information can also be found at Understanding Your Notice or Letter or by searching Forms and Pubs.
“If the letter or fax is really from the IRS, you’ll find instructions on how to respond to it on the IRS website. If you don’t find information about your IRS notice on IRS.gov, or if the instructions in your notice and the IRS website don’t mesh, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. If you determine that the notice you received is not legitimate, contact TIGTA and report the scam attempt to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org,” Jenkins said.
More information on reporting tax scams is available at IRS.gov. Additional tax scam information is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube and Tumblr.