6 Tips for Avoiding a Tax Scam this Tax Season

March 03, 2016

Tax season is here and the scammers are out in full force. The BBB serving Metro Washington DC and Eastern PA regularly receives reports from people who allege they have received calls from scammers impersonating IRS agents.

Although this scam isn’t new, the IRS recently published a warning about this phone scam, stating that the agency has seen a surge in reports of threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents.

IRS impersonators make threats of arrest, deportation and license revocation if they don’t receive immediate payment. The scammers then instruct the taxpayer to put money on a prepaid debit card or send payment via wire transfer.

According to the IRS, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received reports since October 2013 that more than 5,000 victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of this scam.

The IRS scam is currently trending on the BBB Scam Tracker, an online service that allows consumers to see types of scams being reported throughout the U.S. and read details of the scam. Consumers can view scams by state, by type of scam and dollar amount lost. Consumers can also use the BBB Scam Tracker to report scam calls and offers they receive.

BBB offers this advice to avoid getting scammed:

Look out for “spoofing.” Part of why scammers are so successful is because oftentimes their tactics include spoofing, which happens when the caller masks their own number and causes the number of a well-known service, like the IRS, to appear on caller ID. In most cases, the caller will give a badge number and know the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Write down details. If you do get a call and are unsure, write down the phone number and name of the caller.

Protect your personal information. Don’t provide any account number or other financial information over the phone. The IRS is reminding taxpayers, that they will never initiate a call without having mailed a formal letter first. They will also already know things like your birthdate, Social Security Number, so there will be no need to “verify” it.

Know your rights. The IRS doesn’t request prepaid debit cards or wire transfer payments, and will not ask for a credit card number over the phone. The IRS contacts taxpayers by mail before ever making a phone call.

Don’t be bullied. Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to push you into doing what they want. Be skeptical of what a caller claims he or she can do if you refuse to meet their demand.

Hang up and report it. If you’re unsure if the call is real, contact the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov. You can also file a BBB Scam Tracker report here: go.bbb.org/scamtracker.

For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org/washington-dc-eastern-pa and for the latest, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.