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IRS, TIGTA warning taxpayers about rise in phone scams

At the outset of tax season, both the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued multiple warning to taxpayers to be on the lookout for all manner of scams in the days leading up to the April 18 tax deadline. Indeed, the IRS even released a list of "Dirty Dozen" tax schemes that could potentially ensnare the unsuspecting in 2016.

While you would think that the risk of taxpayers falling victim to scams has passed now that the closing date for filing federal returns has come and gone, both the IRS and TIGTA are now warning that the danger is still very real.

Specifically, both of these agencies -- as well as state law enforcement agencies across the nation -- are reporting a large volume of calls being made to seemingly random consumers from individuals claiming to be with the IRS.

The content of these calls, say officials, ranges from overt threats (arrest, deportation, etc.) accompanied by demands for payment of a tax debt not actually owed to polite inquiries designed to secure sensitive personal information under the guise of processing a return.

Making matters worse, these scammers are reportedly no longer hanging up when no one answers, but leaving official-sounding voicemails directing people to call back.

Thus far, the IRS indicates that tens of millions of dollars have been paid out by thousands of victims, including at least 120 here in Georgia estimated to have been defrauded of more than $700,000.   

As to why so many people are falling victim to these unscrupulous tactics, experts believe it can be attributed to playing off their fears of having committed a mistake on their returns or their eagerness to secure a refund.  

Regardless of the reasons, the IRS is advising taxpayers to be on the lookout for the following signs of a phone scam:

  • The IRS will never demand payment for taxes over the telephone and always mails several tax bills before taking any sort of collection action
  • The IRS will never demand payment without providing you the chance to challenge or appeal the amount owed.
  • The IRS will never seek to verify your personal information over the telephone or email.
  • The IRS will never demand that payment be made in a specific manner (i.e., pre-paid debit card), and will not ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
  • The IRS will never threaten arrest.

If you receive a suspect phone call, officials advise simply hanging up and/or ignoring voice mails. If you still have questions or concerns, they advise calling the IRS directly at its 800 number.

If you've been victimized by fraud in relation to your taxes, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can help you examine your options and get to work setting things straight.

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