And even though these calls may be unnerving rest assure they are not from the IRS.
“It’s a scam and these scam artists just don’t give up,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. “The IRS does not solicit information by phone. And, if the IRS needs information from you they will first write a letter.”
According to the IRS an aggressive and sophisticated telephone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
“All of this information should present red flags to consumers,” Vicari said. “The IRS will not threaten you nor will any other legitimate business for that matter. Serious scare tactics are a sure sign of a scam artist.”
According to Consumer Affairs, the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Phishing (emails that look like they are from the IRS) has been on the increase this year and some of the emails are quite convincing. Scammers email a potential victim trying to trick them into giving them their personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the link in them. “Be sure to shred all documents containing personal information, such as your Social Security number, home address, and birth date,’’ Vicari suggested. “Spend a little extra if possible and get a cross-cut shredder. Experts also recommend checking your credit report annually and your bank and credit card statements often. For additional information contact the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs at (732) 929-2105.
- “You are entitled to a free credit report from the three major credit reporting companies annually,” Vicari said. “Keeping track of your credit rating might help spearhead any attempt at stealing your identity.”
- “And, protect your computer with essential tools including a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption for sensitive data,” he said.
- Consumer affairs representatives also suggest some simple steps to protect your identity.
- “Scammers change tactics from year to year and there are variations of this scam that run year-round,” Vicari said. “Phishing is another form of an IRS scam.”