Scams are nothing new, with terms such as confidence man and con man being used since the 1850s. As NPR explains, the Brooklyn Bridge enjoyed repeat sales in the late 1800s. Modern scams often take the guise of dethroned Nigerian royalty needing money wired to them. Next to such inventive tales, scams perpetrated by people purporting to represent eBay, your cable company or the IRS may seem too obvious. That’s part of what makes them so dangerous and all types of people, not just vulnerable groups such as the elderly and non-native English speakers, fall for them.
No lakes or rivers are involved in phishing scams. Instead, this type of fraud takes place through mail, email, phone calls, text messages and seemingly proper websites. They trick people into revealing their personal and financial data such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers. An example of such a scam is when you get an email seemingly from the IRS saying that the agency needs you to submit a request for a tax refund. The IRS also warns tax preparers to be on the lookout for emails that claim a need to update their IRS login information.
One immediate and obvious sign of an IRS phone scam is when the number on your caller ID shows something unrelated to the IRS, right? Not so fast. Many scammers are savvy enough to make caller ID look like they’re calling from a genuine IRS office. They’re prepared with names, titles and even badge numbers. Scam emails and mail display official-looking IRS letterheads, so what can you do?
One of the most critical things you need to know is that the IRS will never reach out to you via Facebook or other social media, email or text message, much less ask you for bank information or other data via those channels.
Another key thing to remember is the official website of the IRS: IRS.gov. Anything that has something similar, like IRS.com, IRS.org or the like, is a scam.
Scammers do the following, and the IRS does NOT:
- Command payment of a bill right away despite not having mailed one
- Threaten you with arrest or deportation
- Say you must pay a set amount of taxes without giving you the chance to appeal or debate the amount owed
- Demand debit or credit card information via phone
If you think an IRS scammer has contacted you, don’t engage the person. If you believe you do owe taxes, give the IRS a call at 1-800-829-1040. Otherwise, you can call 1-800-366-4484 to report a suspected scam. You should also report it to the FTC.