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BBB: Beware Fake IRS Phone Calls

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If it’s tax season, then it’s also time for scammers to pose as employees of the Internal Revenue Service. The Better Business Bureau has some tips on fighting back.

Tax-related scams cost victims more than $23 million per year, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Reports have reached TIGTA of almost 900,000 scam contacts over the past two and a half years. Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400% increase in phishing schemes.

“People are getting phone calls, and even getting messages on their answering machines that says they have an unpaid [tax] bill that they need to pay right away, or someone’s going to come and arrest them,” said Tammy Ward at the BBB’s northwest Florida office.

She says a number of local residents have called them with such complaints. If you do receive one of these calls, do not provide personal information, give access to bank accounts, or send them money.

And it’s not as if the bad guys are just sitting around. The con artists are always coming up with new ways in the attempt to separate victims from their money, such as contacting taxpayers who have already filed their returns.

“They’ll call and say they’re received their filing, and they’re just calling to confirm some information,” Ward said. “And some of that might contain their Social Security number and their banking information. That’s something else to look out for, especially if they’ve already put in their tax return, and are waiting on the refund.”

There are ways to handle these scammers. First, remember that the main ingredients of the calls are that their always unsolicited, they claim to be IRS agents, and demand the victim pay a bogus tax bill.

“Caller ID Spoofing” is another favorite scam. That involves altering caller ID and using fake badge numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. Ward says the feds will not demand credit and debit card numbers over the phone, nor do they demand payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

“That’s how the scammers try to get people when they get them on the phone, is either their credit card account number, and/or a prepaid card. The IRS will never ask for that information over the phone,” said Ward.

If you’re due a refund, and/or have no reason to think you owe the IRS back taxes and get such a call, the solution is pretty straightforward.

“They just don’t even need to say anything to them, all they have to do is hang up,” Ward said.

If you do owe and get a fake call, report it to your local BBB office or visit www.bbb.org. You can also call the IRS at 800-829-1040 for assistance.