Your elderly parent receives a threatening phone call, voice mail, email, or official-looking letter that claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The agent says that your loved one owes back taxes, and must pay right away or go to jail.
That can be a frightening moment, and it’s happening to more and more people these days, many of them seniors. But these threats are a scam. The crooks count on their victims acting quickly out of fear, and fear can cloud our judgement. Many victims, if they had time to think about it, would note that the letter is riddled with typos or the caller sounds very unprofessional. The caller might direct them to go to a nearby bank or even pay cash—not something a government agency would do. Yet the scammers also can be pretty sophisticated, using lookalike counterfeit IRS stationary, a phony IRS website, even fake caller ID.
According to the IRS, victims of this scam have lost over $20 million—and many of them are seniors. In order to raise awareness of this fraud so that people won’t be caught by surprise when they are targeted, the IRS is spreading the word about how these scammers operate, and about things the real IRS would never do. Share this information with your loved one.
The IRS will never:
- Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
The IRS also reminds consumers that the official IRS website is IRS.gov. Taxpayers are urged not to be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS, but ending in .com, .net, .org or other suffixes.
“It is critical that all taxpayers continue to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS employees,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “This scam, which is international in nature, has proven to be the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen. The callers are aggressive, they are relentless and they are ruthless,” he said. “Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash,” George added.
If you think you or a loved one is being targeted by an IRS impersonator, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Forward scam e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on news releases from the Internal Revenue Service. Visit the IRS website to learn more about this and other tax scams.