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Don't Fall Victim to IRS Impostor Scams - Here's What You Need to Know

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IRS imposter scams don’t come to an end with tax season.

Unfortunately, IRS imposter scams don’t stop when tax season is in the rearview mirror. Criminals continue to forge ahead with new twists on this old con.

Beyond the usual ploys — threats of arrest, deportation or property seizure over an alleged debt — a new spin has IRS imposters promising a refund to trick targets into sharing private information. If the target doesn’t answer their phone call, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

While this imposter scam has been around for years, people still succumb to the pressure tactics. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 9,783 imposter scams reported in Washington in 2016. They were the No. 1 type of fraud reported in the state, representing 24 percent of all fraud and similar consumer complaints.

Here is more information about what IRS imposter scams are, what to know, and what to do if you think you’ve been targeted.

What It Is

Implementing an intimidating and sophisticated phone scam, callers claim to be IRS or Treasury employees and say you owe taxes. They might also:

  • threaten to arrest or deport you if you don't pay,
  • know all or part of your Social Security number,
  • rig caller ID to make it look like the call is from the IRS or
  • tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number.

What to Know

Know that the IRS does NOT:

  • call you to demand immediate payment,
  • call you about taxes owed without having first contacted you by mail,
  • require you to use a specific method to pay your taxes such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer,
  • ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or
  • threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.

What To Do If You Think You’re Being Targeted

  • Hang up! Do not respond to callback numbers provided in robocalls or voicemails.
  • Instead, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to report the scam.
  • If scammers recite a portion of your SSN, consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file with the three major credit reporting bureaus to reduce risk of identity theft.
  • Consumers who think that they are being targeted by a scammer can also call the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center based in Seattle at 1-800-646-2283 to speak with a trained counselor.

If you really owe taxes or if there’s been a problem with filing your returns, the IRS will notify you by U.S. mail – not telephone. In addition, the IRS has recently contracted with four private companies to recover long overdue taxes. Those taxpayers affected will first receive a letter from the IRS that their tax accounts have been turned over to CBE Group, Conserve, Performant or Pioneer, followed by a letter from the collection agency.

To learn more about scams to look out for, visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

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