Mikenzie Frost reports on how to spot a common tax season scam in this edition of Fraud Watch.
When the phone rings and the caller ID says the "Internal Revenue Service," some people may answer, but that caller ID could be spoofed, mimicking a legitimate agency – and the voice on the line is from any place but the IRS.
Here is the transcript of one of the phone scams:
“This is Jimmy Carter from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, this call is to notify you about a legal case which has been filed against your name and your physical address is under the federal investigation. Your case file is CF-100122. To get more information, you can get back to me on my number 981-285-7105.”
The Office of Consumer Protection in the Montana Department of Justice warns that these scams can happen to anyone.
In 2016, there were about 1,000 calls to report IRS scams in Montana.
OCP investigator Ryan Sullivan says the IRS will never call you if there is an issue regarding back taxes or anything else.
"They’re never going to email you, they’ll never ask for a payment via wire transfer or credit card over the phone,” Sullivan said. “The IRS will contact you via mail, so you’re going to get something in the mail that’s signed and notarized by the IRS."
Sullivan added that these scammers are also sending out mass text messages in addition to the calls.
Anyone who receives a call from a scammer is asked to report the incident to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection at 406-444-4500 or online.
The MT DOJ provides the following information about dealing with scammers:
The IRS reported the average federal tax refund during the 2015 filing season was about $3,200. Montanans work very hard for their wages, and it’s unconscionable that identity thieves are stealing their well-deserved tax refunds. Fortunately, consumers can arm themselves with knowledge from the FTC, the IRS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others, including my Office of Consumer Protection.
Tax identity theft can happen in a number of ways. It includes someone filing a phony tax return using your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to collect your refund from the IRS. It also can happen if someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your dependents on a tax return. These identity thieves can get your personal information in a number of ways, such as searching through your trash, stealing your mail, or posing as the IRS and asking for personal information over the phone. The FTC reports tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported for the past five years.
The FTC suggests Montanans take the following steps to protect themselves from tax scams:
- File your return early in the tax season if you can.
- If you file electronically, don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like the library, coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact you by mail.
- Respond to all postal mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
- If your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
- Get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
If you become a victim of tax identity theft, don’t panic. Tax identity theft victims typically find out their information has been compromised when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 and visit IdentityTheft.gov to find more resources to help you report and recover from identity theft.
If you owe — or think you may owe — federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. The IRS doesn’t ask people to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and doesn’t ask for credit card numbers over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they do it by postal mail first, not by phone.
NEXT STEPS: More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft. Report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. To get updates on the latest scams and identity theft attempts affecting Montanans, sign up for Consumer Alerts through the Office of Consumer Protection. To report an attempted scam, use OCP’s convenient online reporting form here. You can also call to speak with one of our investigators at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, visit OCP’s homepage at https://dojmt.gov/consumer/, or call your local law enforcement agency.