Scams, tax cons and schemes have multiplied on many different media for the 2017-2018 season. Criminals have developed some intricate and insidious scams to divert your tax dollars into their pockets.
In last week’s blog, we introduced the topic of tax scams. Gavrilov & Co tax accountants, also known around our office as “the tax squad” have issued consumer alerts against many of these scams. Our experts have spotted some shocking tax scams on the web, the telephone and on social media.
Warning! Beware of Tax Scams and Cons Dressed as Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Many popular cons evolve around fake IRS communication. Con artists are adept at utilizing fax, phone, E-mail, and now, social media, to trap unsuspecting victims.
Gavrilov warns you that the IRS simply does not participate in the following types of activities.
1. The authentic IRS will not contact taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels. These do not represent their ways to request financial information.
2. Likewise, we want you to know that the real IRS won’t intimidate you with a lawsuit if you do not pay.
3. Moreover, no genuine representative of the IRS “will threaten you with imprisonment or other law enforcement punishments.”
The IRS states, “Recognizing these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.” Bullying and threatening behavior is some of the telltale signs, by the way.
Scams, Step Aside: Will the Real IRS Please Step Forward?
In the first place, the IRS makes primary contacts using regular mail through the United States Postal Service. That being said, there are some rare times that the IRS will call or visit home or business:
1. Although it is not typical, they might call or visit you if you have an overdue tax bill.
2. A visit would be necessary to tour your business as part of an audit.
3. Likewise, they would call on you if your business became part of a criminal investigation.
Even in the above examples of extreme circumstances, they would not visit or call you without mailing you several advance letters or “IRS notices,” as they are termed, first.
So, how do you know if the IRS person who rang your doorbell is real? Direct from the online source of the (actual) IRS, “Here is what the IRS will do:
“If an IRS representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials. One of them is called a pocket commission and the other one is a HSPD-12card. HSPD-12 is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors.”
1. Take a good look at the identification. The IRS declares, “You have the right to see these credentials.”
2. And if you would like to verify information on the representative’s HSPD-12 card, the representative will provide you with a dedicated IRS telephone number for verifying the information and confirming their identity.
Although the internet and the phone provide scammers ample opportunities for fraud, apparently there are still door-to-door old-school impersonators who will try an in-person fraud. Our security advice is simple. Do not open the door until you have validated a person’s identification.
Twisted Tax Scams Feature Plastic Protocols
As the holiday shopping season descends upon us, gift cards flourish. You might buy them from a reputable store as gifts, but never purchase one at the behest of a phone call from the IRS. That’s right—it’s a scam.
Masterful criminals impersonating the IRS actually call and demand “IRS” payment through a specific gift card or a pre-paid debit card. Likewise, they might skip the plastic and demand that you need to send funds by wire transfer, immediately, to a unique address.
- As you look at your telephone ID, it might spell out Internal Revenue Service, or I.R.S. But the scam artists have even figured out how to fake that.
- We adamantly assert that neither gift cards, nor pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers to strange addresses are IRS protocols. They will simply mail you a bill.
- Moreover, the IRS will not just demand that you pay your tax bill. They will also extend you an opportunity for questions. Likewise the real IRS will give you the chance to appeal the amount they specify.
Brutal Scams Bring Rude Threats of Tax Punishments from the fake IRS
The IRS Another common threat the criminals make is to utilize your local police or immigration officers. The scammers will also tell you they can remove your business license, revoke your driver’s license or change your immigration status.
Don’t’ buy it. These are common tricks used by con artists to steal your money.
The flip side of this scam is that criminals inform their victims they have overlooked a handsome tax refund. They tell you convincingly about a nice pile of money, a big fat government check. And it is awaiting your approval.
The refund mystifies you. It was not in your figures or those of your accountant. Yet, you’d like this gift to be true so badly that you do not hesitate to give the caller your address, social security and banking numbers. Be warned, this is just a con artist’s trick to obtain your personal information. Beware. Once they have it, the scammers will use it to commit Identity Theft. Be wary. That was the point of the lie.
Scams and I.D. Theft On the Internet: Frank Abagnale’s Cute Tax Refund Story
Speaking of scam artists, I.D. theft and tax refunds, you might have heard some of the stories by former con artist Frank Abagnale, whose autobiography was the source of the movie, Catch Me If You Can. With over three decades of teaching fraud tricks to FBI authorities, he has spoken about how criminals can combine I.D. theft and tax refund scams.
To put it briefly, a con artist uses an easy online tax program to file for taxes under your name and basic I.D. Then, the scammer gets the refund before you even file. When you finally do submit your genuine tax return, the government thinks they’ve already paid you. According to Abagnale, such cases can require a year to get unsnarled.
Our Anti-Scam Tax Tip Take-Away for Today
Here at Gavrilov and Co in New York City, we are concerned that every taxpayer knows their rights.
If you know your rights and invest in tax accountants with sterling reputations, you won’t be victimized by any of these scams.
We also know you are probably thinking that they sound very transparent, like foolish scams that would never hook you.
Frank Abagnale warns individuals and businesses alike, “If you believe you have a foolproof system, you’ve failed to take into consideration the creativity of fools.”
We add that the individuals who make millions scamming people are cleverer than you might imagine. Their skills are more powerfully persuasive than the telling of their scheme on paper reveals.
Moreover, as Abagnale added, criminals see far less threat to them by authority than you might picture. He stated, “Criminals look at identity theft and see only 1 in 700 criminals gets convicted of it. And they look at check forgery and they know that for every 1,400 forgers arrested, only about 123 get convicted and about 26 go to jail. So the rewards are great, but the risks are very slim. So that’s one of the reasons that make it very popular.”
Against all the cons, schemes and scams, and to some degree against the government itself, you have a taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. And the IRS honors it. The experts condensed your taxpayer’s rights into ten categories and then developed each category to equal a right.
We are so sure you will find these rights fascinating that we will feature them in a future blog article. Until then, we invite you to take a look at them at the IRS online resource.
Were You Hurt by a Tax Scam? What to do if a Con Victimized You:
If you feel you are the victim of a fraudulent tax scheme or con, please report the incident to one of these reputable sources:
Notify the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (800-366-4484) to report a phone scam. Or go to the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page.
Likewise, we suggest you contact the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. and indicate “IRS Telephone Scam.” In fact, if you find an email in your box that claims origin from the IRS or the Electronic Federal, and you did not request help from them. Tax Payment system, please report it to email@example.com.