How to sidestep phone scams during tax season

When cybercriminals call, they employ an arsenal of tricks and tactics. A Sinu customer recently experienced “spoofing,” which is the use of a local phone number, even a number identical to the victim’s, to elicit information.

Now that it’s tax season, Forbes warns that scammers will try to take advantage of tax filers using spoofing and other means to obtain valuable personal data.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is also warning about ongoing aggressive telephone scams. “Those phone scams are ‘a major threat to taxpayers’ and as such, continued to hold down a top spot on the IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams for the 2018 filing season,” Forbes reported.

Here's how they do it. You may receive a call from a number that looks like the IRS toll-free number. The caller poses as an IRS representative claiming that you owe money to the IRS. You are told that you must pay the balance promptly using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer or be subject to punishment. They may even threaten to arrest you or suspend your driver’s license.

"Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. Werfel goes on to explain that the IRS typically corresponds by mail, and would not ask for personal information or payment via the phone or email.

Forbes offered a simple tip to anyone receiving any of these calls: “If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, and you owe tax or think you may owe tax, do not give out any information.” 

Hanging up is the safest remedy.

Other ways to avoid IRS telephone scams include the following:

• Avoid unknown calls and any unknown service provider that tries to sell services to you.

• Don't wire money to anyone who seems insistent or urgent.

• Never reply to messages asking for your financial/personal information.

• Do not confirm or deny your identity until you know who is calling. The person who called – and not the person who answers the phone – should identify themselves first.

• Check the legitimacy of any agency, organization or company cold calling you by doing a quick online search while on the phone.

• Do not disclose personal information or passwords. Do not confirm computer usage, ownership of anything in your house or account numbers.

• Tell them you are recording the call (and do it if you can). If they hang up, then it is a phone scam.

• Do not go to websites following the prompts of a cold call. If you do, chances are that you're downloading a virus or allowing access to your computer and data

Targeted victims of IRS telephone scams can call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 to find out more; 
contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484 to report scam calls; or use the “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” form on their website.

The Federal Trade Commission, through its Division of Consumer and Business Education, concluded, “If tax identity theft happens to you, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report it to the FTC, file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS electronically, and get a personal recovery plan. For more information, check out our imposter's webpage.”