Latest IRS Scams: How to Spot Them and Fight Back
A picture of an IRS tax form next to a cup of coffee

Here’s a list of recent IRS scams, 10 ways to spot impersonators and scammers, and how you can report them

IRS scams involve criminals impersonating IRS agents, other government employees or debt collectors over the phone, online or via the mail in an effort to trick you into sending them money for taxes, penalties or fees you don’t actually owe.

People lose millions of dollars a year due to IRS scams. Don’t be one of them. Here’s a list of recent IRS scams, tips on how to spot one and (perhaps) how to get some revenge.

Learn how to spot the latest IRS scams and fight back.  10 ways to spot impersonators and scammers, and how you can report them.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The latest IRS scams

Have any of these happened to you?

1. ‘We recalculated your tax refund and you need to fill out this form’

These scam emails display the IRS logo and use subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” It asks people to click a link and provide their Social Security numbers, birthday, address, driver’s license number and other personal information in order to submit a fake form to allegedly claim their refund.

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2. ‘You need to pay a small fee to get your stimulus check

This is a growing scam related to the government’s ongoing response to the coronavirus, the Federal Trade Commission warns. Many Americans will qualify for a stimulus check, but the government (including the IRS) does not require anyone to pay anything to receive the money.

3. ‘We’re calling from the FDIC and we need your bank information’

The Federal Depository Insurance Corporation insures bank deposits so that consumers won’t lose all of their money if a bank fails. But it does not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money, sensitive personal information, bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, Social Security numbers or passwords. Scammers claiming to be from the FDIC are hunting for information they can use to commit fraud or sell identities.

4. ‘We’re calling to tell you your identity was stolen; you need to buy some gift cards to fix it’

In this trick, a criminal calls the victim and poses as an IRS agent. The criminal claims the victim’s identity has been stolen and that it was used to open fake bank accounts. The caller then tells the taxpayer to go buy certain gift cards; later, the crook gets back in touch and asks for the gift card access numbers.

5. ‘We’ll cancel your Social Security number’

In this IRS scam, the criminal contacts the victim and claims that he or she can suspend or cancel the victim’s Social Security number.

“If taxpayers receive a call threatening to suspend their SSN for an unpaid tax bill, they should just hang up,” the IRS says.

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6. ‘This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement, and we’re putting a lien or levy on your assets’

There is no Bureau of Tax Enforcement. Victims often receive a letter from the fake agency claiming that they have a tax lien or tax levy and that they had better pay the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement” or else.

7. ‘If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested’

Criminals can make a caller ID phone number look like it’s coming from anywhere — including from the IRS, the local police or some other intimidating source. But the IRS doesn’t leave prerecorded voicemails, especially ones that claim to be urgent or are threatening. Also, the IRS can’t revoke your driver’s license, business licenses or immigration status.

8. ‘Use this Form W-8BEN to give us personal data’

Although the Form W-8BEN, which is called a “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding,” is a legitimate IRS form, criminals have been modifying the form to ask for personal information such as mother’s maiden name, passport numbers and PIN numbers. (The real form is here.)

9. ‘Click here to see some details about your tax refund’

These emails are intended to trick the reader into clicking on links that lead to a fake IRS-like website and expose the user to malware. The IRS never emails taxpayers about the status of their tax refunds. (We’ve collected in one place the links to track the status of your tax refund directly with the IRS or your state’s tax authority.)

10. ‘We’re from the Taxpayer Advocate Service and we need some information’

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is a legitimate organization within the IRS that helps people get assistance with IRS problems. But it doesn’t call taxpayers for no reason. Criminals are making phone calls look like they’re coming from the TAS office in Houston or Brooklyn, according to the IRS, and when taxpayers return the calls — which often tell victims they’re entitled to a large tax refund — the criminals ask for personal information such as a Social Security number.

11. ‘Click on this to see your tax transcript’

In this scam, fraudsters send an email with an attachment they claim is the taxpayer’s tax transcript. (A tax transcript is a summary of a person’s tax return.) Although tax transcripts are a real thing that the IRS provides, the IRS does not email tax transcripts. You can request one directly from the IRS, which it will then mail to you.

12. ‘Take this FBI survey’

This is a ransomware scheme in which criminals email messages that appear to be from the IRS or FBI. When readers click on a link to a survey that the message claims is required, the link downloads ransomware that prevents users from accessing data on their devices unless they pay off the fraudsters.

13. ‘You owe the Federal Student Tax’

There is no federal student tax.

14. ‘We don’t need to sign your tax return even though we prepared it’

Anyone you pay to prepare your tax return must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number and must sign your tax return. Reluctance to sign your return is a red flag that the person is a “ghost preparer” who just wants to charge you a fee and split.

If you’ve been harassed by debt collectors or believe you’re a victim of unfair debt or unfair debt collection practices, contact Peterson Legal today, we can help. We will take the time to explain your rights and work on your behalf. We’re on your side. Call today, 612-367-6568

Written by Diane Nelson

August 30, 2021

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