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IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam and Email Phishing Schemes

Bridgeworth has learned of recent telephone and email scams. While these scams have been around for several years, they seem to be picking up momentum lately. We’re providing information to our clients to inform you of these scams and help you recognize them up front so you do not become a victim.

Telephone Scam

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. The US Treasury Department’s Inspector General J. Russell George has described it as “the biggest scam we’ve seen this year”. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS/US Treasury, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing by using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They might even send bogus emails purportedly from the IRS to support their scam calls. They may know a lot about you (including the last four digits of your social security number), and they usually alter (spoof) the caller ID to make it look like the call is actually coming from the IRS.

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. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, the scammer may hang up and another may soon call back pretending to be from the local police of DMV, and the caller ID is altered to support their claim.

Or, victims may be told they are getting a refund due or an increase in Social Security benefits to try to trick them into sharing private information.

If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Email Phishing Scheme: “Update your IRS e-file”

An email phishing scam may also target victims. The email appears to be from the IRS and includes a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.

What Should You Do?

If you get a phone call or email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know or think you owe taxes, call the real IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
  • If you know that you do NOT owe taxes or have no reason to believe you owe taxes, call and report the incident to the US Treasury Department at 1-800-366-4484.
  • You may also file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams”. If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • Do NOT open any attachments or click on any links contained in the email message. Instead, forward the email to [email protected].
  • Have your professional tax advisor (EA, CPA or tax attorney) handle any IRS contact that causes you concern.

 Please note that the IRS does NOT:

  • Initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text, social media or phone to request personal or financial information.
  • Ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor call about taxes owed without first mailing you a notification.
  • Demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or Money Gram.
  • Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Bridgeworth is holding an Identity Theft Seminar on Wednesday, September 30 in our Birmingham office.

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Bridgeworth, LLC is a SEC registered investment advisor. Bridgeworth does not offer tax or legal advice, you should consult your own tax or legal advisor.

BTN# 1-420179.0915