SCAM ALERT: Tax season will bring the fraudsters out

Lynette Veit, ECB Publishing, Inc.

For the last several years in a row, phone scams with phony IRS agents, and email phishing scams out to steal personal information have topped the IRS' list of tax scams that plague millions of people during tax filing season.
Whether people have already filed their taxes or are still planning to do so, receiving a phone call from “the IRS” claiming that they owe an outrageous sum of money, or threatening them with arrest, revocation of driver's or business licenses, or deportation if they don't pay immediately, can give anybody quite a turn. According to several reports, these scammers know how to sound professional as well as threatening.
But it's okay, the caller says all they have to do is go out and get a pre-paid debit card or gift card and send it in, or wire them the money, and...problem solved.
Uhm, not so fast.
According to the website, if the real IRS wants to contact a taxpayer, the agency will begin by sending a notice through regular mail, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. By the time John or Jane Doe Taxpayer starts getting phone calls from the real IRS, if it gets to that point, he or she should have already received several notices through the mail.
So, getting cold-called by “the IRS” or someone claiming to be an IRS agent is the first red flag.
The second red flag is the demand for a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will not demand that you use any specific method of payment – that is up to you how you wish to pay – nor will the IRS ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
Other red flags:
• The IRS will not demand that you pay taxes without first being given the opportunity to appeal the amount they say you owe.
• The IRS will not threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. They also cannot revoke your driver's license, business licenses or immigration status. Threats like these are common scare tactics used by scammers to pressure people into sending money.
Another scam high on the IRS list is the email phishing scam. The IRS does not initiate contact with people through email, text messages or social media, asking for personal or financial information. These emails may also contain spyware or malware that can steal your private information if you click on them.
If you receive any unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS, don't click on them – forward them immediately to, and add a note that this seems to be a scam phishing for your information.
To report tax-related scams, identity theft or fraud, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
If you think you might owe more taxes, or just want to check to see if there is a problem, or want to see if the IRS is indeed trying to contact you for any reason, call the real IRS at 1(800) 829-1040.