YUMA, Ariz. – The Yuma Police Department said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned taxpayers to stay vigilant against an increase in IRS impersonation scams. According to YPD, the scams are in the form of automated calls where scammers demand tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.
Bill Brunson a spokesman for the IRS, says the tax scammers call unsuspected victims saying they owe money to the IRS. Scammers say the form of payment must be through gift cards, “Once they get those codes and transfer the money from that account into their account, then they’re done with you, they got the money,” Brunson says. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.
Brunson says scammers have stolen more than $800,000 in Arizona so far this year.
The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls”, where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill”. These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t agree to pay. Bruson says scammers are able to target hundreds of people with this method, “they could call the entire county of Yuma perhaps with one of these robo-calls.”
Janet Torricellas with the Yuma Better Business Bureau says the IRS will never ask you for personal information over the phone and will mail you a notice of tax payment before calling.
“The IRS will normally not call you over the phone, if anything, correspondence in the mail would be their number one source of reaching out to you,” says Torricellas.
Since these bogus calls can take many forms and scammers are constantly changing their strategies, knowing the telltale signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:
- Demanding payment for a “Federal Student Tax.” See IR-2016-81.
- Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes or other type of gift card
- Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals. See IR-2016-34.
- “Verifying” tax return information over the phone. See IR-2016-40.
- Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry. See IR-2016-28
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call: • Web page Contact: IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting – U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or
- Call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.