IRS urges caution with email, social media and phones as part of “Dirty Dozen” series
The Internal Revenue Service continues its “Dirty Dozen” scam series with a warning to taxpayers to watch out for unexpected schemes in the form of emails, text or social media messages and phone calls.
Unscrupulous individuals seek to obtain personal information for the purpose of tax-related identity theft. Whether through a telephone call, text message or email, the con artist tries to convince the recipient that they need to provide Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information or passwords. The scam may also include sending links that once clicked on can download malicious software that collects, or “mines” personal data.
Often, criminals pose as someone the recipient knows or frequently interacts with, whether a social or family relationship or a business contact. They gather much of this information from social media. A person’s contacts or ‘friends’ are used to bait the recipient into thinking they’re dealing with someone they know.
More information on the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” list can be found on IRS.gov.
Impersonator phone calls / phishing
Individuals should be wary of unexpected phone calls asking for personal financial information. The IRS has seen an increase in voice-related phishing, or ‘vishing,’ particularly from scams related to federal tax liens. For those receiving phone calls out of the blue, security experts recommend asking questions of the caller but not providing any personal information. If in doubt, hang up immediately.
During 2020, almost 400 vishing scams were reported, a 14% increase from the prior year. Of those vishing scams, 25% were scammers who tried to use fake tax lien information. The number of tax-lien related scams increased from 58 in 2019 to 104 in 2020, an increase of 79%. The IRS urges taxpayers to refrain from engaging potential scammers on the phone or online.
While both the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission have seen a decline in the number of reports of scammers claiming to be from the IRS telephoning potential victims, the agency urges taxpayers to be wary. (The IRS has seen a 43% decrease in the number of reports of calls from callers claiming to be from the IRS: 20,500 in 2020 compared to 36,000 in 2019. The FTC saw a 67% decline from 7,694 reports in 2019 to 2,571 in 2020.)
While the numbers may be on the decline, the IRS urges taxpayers to remain vigilant and to remember the following things about the IRS:
• The IRS generally first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes.
• The IRS may attempt to reach individuals by telephone but will not insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order or wire transfer.
• The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text or social media.
Recipients of these calls should hang up before giving out any information. If anyone receives an unexpected call from the IRS that they believe to be a scam, they can report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).