As tax season begins, so does another round of panic-inducing phone calls, emails and mailings demanding payment from those purporting to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Many of these communications are designed to intimidate and are laced with threats — including jail time for the recipient should they fail to settle up.
Fortunately, it’s a scam, but one many unwittingly fall for.
“The IRS will never call you or email you,” said Leslie McDermott of McDermott Income Tax and Payroll in Smithfield Township. “They will only contact you by mail.”
Another clue that it’s not the actual IRS launching collection measures is the payment tactics some of the scammers will request.
“They will never require you to use a gift card or a prepaid credit card to pay your bill,” McDermott said. “They will not demand that you pay them or threaten you with jail.”
McDermott added that the IRS does not request personal information from taxpayers by phone or email.
“They will never call you to verify your identity,” she said. “They will not contact you by any other way than by mail. That is the biggest thing we need to get out to people.”
The attempted “collection” effort can be quite frightening for the victim.
“Last year, it seemed to be prevalent and I had two or three of my clients call me crying after they were called and told they were going to jail,” said McDermott. “I haven’t had any calls like that this year. I try to tell everyone I work with that the IRS will not contact you by telephone but it happened a lot last year.”
She pointed out that those who owe the IRS taxes are aware of the debt. It would be extremely unlikely that anyone would be unaware of unpaid taxes.
“You would know,” she said. “We tell people to just hang up and be done when they call. Give no information away and hang up.”
Contact from those posing as the IRS may be reported in a variety of ways. Unsolicited emails can be reported to email@example.com. Those who have lost money to an IRS scam can report the loss to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml. Other methods of reporting can be found at www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.
“You can report it. There are different places to report it on the IRS website,” McDermott said. “If you are not sure how to report it, you can call your tax preparer for help.”