Each year, the Internal Revenue Service compiles a list of the 12 most common, dangerous or costly tax scams. They call this list their “dirty dozen” and recommend that taxpayers stay vigilant during tax season. We will summarize these twelve scams for you, and highlight the steps you should take to protect yourself.
In just the last few years, Americans have lost over $60 million to phone scams. As with the methods used in phishing, phone scams succeed because criminals successfully pass themselves off as government employees, IRS agents, or law enforcement during tax season. Descriptions of a mysterious (and completely illegitimate) unpaid tax bill are common during tax season, and victims are threatened with arrest if they do not immediately follow instructions. The scammers will then intimidate the victim into paying the fraudulent tax bill with a wire transfer or prepaid card. They may claim that the victim will be deported, or their licenses suspended. The criminals will often have access to basic information—like the victim’s address—that lend an air of credibility to their claims. They may falsify their caller ID to copy the IRS or another agency, and there are even reports of phone scams appearing to come from 911.
It is important to remain calm when receiving a call like this. The IRS will never call you to threaten immediate punishment over an impending tax bill. They will also never ask for payment information over the phone. If you receive a call in which either of these happens, hang up immediately regardless of the claims and threats being made against you. It is possible the scammers will call again or leave automated messages, and they may use titles and badge numbers to sound legitimate. Ignore this—you already know it is a scam. If you wish to confirm your tax status with the IRS or check for any taxes owed, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. You can report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) here or at 800-366-4484.