Beware of This Telephone Tax Scam

Telephone scammers claiming to be with the IRS are quite sophisticated, but there are ways to recognize them from the real thing.

The IRS continues to warn taxpayers about telephone scams in which the callers, claiming to be with the IRS, threaten individuals with arrest, revocation of business or driver’s license, or, in the case of immigrants, deportation, if back taxes are not paid immediately. The scammers often ask for payment by credit card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

The scammers are quite sophisticated and use some of the following techniques:

• Use of fake names and IRS badge numbers

• May use “spoofed” IRS toll-free numbers on your caller ID to make it appear it is the IRS calling you

• May be able to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number

• May use bogus IRS e-mails to reinforce their claims

• May be aware of a change in your residence (from real estate transfers in public records) and claim that previous correspondence regarding back taxes due were sent to your prior address. They will claim they are contacting you by phone because you have ignored all previous written correspondence sent to your prior address.

• May threaten arrest and then have others call you impersonating local law enforcement personnel with a date and time for your pending “arrest.” They also may use “spoofed” local law enforcement numbers on your caller ID when they call.

What you need to know is that the IRS initiates collection efforts by mail, not phone or e-mail. If you have filed taxes annually and have not moved since filing your last tax return, you will receive written notices of any tax liability mailed to the address shown on your last filed tax return. Also, the IRS does not ask for credit card numbers nor does it ever request you to pay with prepaid debit cards or to pay by wire transfer.

Some of the characteristics that will help you in recognizing that you have been contacted by a scammer include rude or aggressive language, calling in the evening or on Saturdays, or leaving a cell phone number from a distant area code.

If you receive such a call you need to:

• Remain calm. The scammers rely on fear to coerce you into paying.

• Do not provide or confirm any personal or financial information, such as PIN numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, passwords, etc.

• If they provide you with a phone number in which to call them back, do not call the number—that only lets them know that you are anxious.

• If you answer a suspicious phone call, ask for a call back number and the employee’s badge number. Then confirm the details with the IRS at 1(800) 829-1040.

• Consider giving them the name and phone number of your tax preparer or tax attorney and let the scammer know that they have been empowered to represent you in all tax matters. Then call your representative and let them know about the call.

• If you know that you owe taxes or think that you might owe taxes call the IRS at 1(800) 829-1040. The IRS can let you know if there is a payment issue. Be aware, however, that wait times can be long.

• Call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1(800) 366-4484 to report the incident.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” says IRS Acting Commissioner, Danny Werfel.

Douglas B. Gordon CPA, is a certified public accountant and healthcare consultant with Gordon & Associates, CPA P.C. in Memphis, Tennessee. He can be reached at dbgordon@cpaconsults.com.

Gordon & Associates, CPA P.C. is also a proud member of the National CPA Health Care Advisors Association (HCAA). HCAA is a nationwide network of CPA firms devoted to serving the health care industry. Members provide proactive solutions to the accounting needs of physicians and physician groups. For more information contact the HCAA at info@hcaa.com or visit www.hcaa.com.