Many, many, MANY years ago, when I came to the U.S. from Europe, my first job was in the insurance industry, of which I knew nothing at the time, but passed a test which showed “potential.” In the process of being trained as an insurance agent, I was using a scripted presentation with all my “prospects.” It didn’t take me long to notice that all of them expressed an undeniable interest when, following my script, which I didn’t understand, I asked them:
” How do you like to give half of what you make to Uncle Sam?”
The look on their face was self-explanatory. They didn’t even have to speak, to say: “NO! We don’t want to give 50% to Uncle Sam!”
This single line was by far my key to becoming a successful sales person. However, I wished I knew who was uncle Sam and how come all of them seem to have the same uncle… or was Sam a common name… Half into my training, I dared ask my boss, who was the mysterious Uncle Sam and why did all my clients have an Uncle Sam, and most importantly, why would they have to give 50% to this Uncle. The explanation was long and I fully understood it when I filed my first tax return.
Many years have passed since, and as time went by, I also learned popular sayings, such as, “Only two things are certain, taxes and death,” and others, but they are irrelevant for this post which hopefully will help us recognize and avoid IRS scams, known to be one of the most prolific and dangerous. What is relevant is that taxes and IRS are to be taken seriously. This is one of the reasons the scam is still going strong, taking advantage of people’s good faith and willingness to do right.
The IRS has seen approximately a 400 % increase in incidents of phishing and malware for the 2016 tax season. In other words, the chance that a fake IRS agent will try to scam you is high. It happened to me yesterday and like most unpleasant events, I didn’t think it could, until it did!
Fortunately, I have heard detailed descriptions of the IRS scams so many times that I didn’t panic and reported the incident with the hope that those in charge will take adequate measures and protect us.
In short, here’s what happened:
I received a call and the caller id indicated a Washington, D.C. area code (202)
As a rule, I don’t answer calls if I don’t know the callers because if it’s legitimate, they will leave a message. This caller left a message… I guess, the rule is that there is no rule!
I listened to the message, and just as the “Scam Fighters” on the evening news warned, the man who left the message used threatening language, meant to trigger anxiety in even the most laid back person… What IF?
Here are a few of the words the impersonator used:
‘You are the primary suspect… a time sensitive matter… you or your attorney must call me back immediately, or there will be legal consequences…’
While the IRS “agent” repeated the phone number where I was supposed to call back, he never stated his name or a badge number. Unfortunately, even if he would have, the mention of a name or badge number are also known scams meant to gain the trust of the prospective victim.
Instead of calling the area code (202) supposedly an IRS phone number, I emailed and filed complaints with several agencies which protect us.
I’m sharing the information in hopes, IF it happens to you, having it handy will save time and make reporting the scam easier.
I emailed email@example.com
Filed an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which protects consumers
You might also contact The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
Whether you email, file a complaint or write a letter, write in the SUBJECT LINE:
IRS IMPERSONATION SCAM REPORTING
The web site which has updated information is:
The crooks continue to change their operation procedures. We already know about sites that imitate the original web sites, but the nuances are so small, we might not notice them!
It’s all in a dot or the lack of it!
For instance, THE ONLY DIFFERENCE between the real IRS web site, and a fake one (which was discovered and taken down) was . (A DOT!!!) The real web site had a dot: irs.gov
while the fake site didn’t:irsgov!!!
KEEP IT SIMPLE!
If you receive a call and don’t answer it, if you don’t recognize who is the caller, the impostor will eventually go away. At least you will have time to think if the call makes sense.
If you receive an email, don’t click on any links, thus eliminating the possibility to end up on a fake site.
As a general rule, such serious matters are not discussed via phone calls and emails, but through mail and most likely, certified mail, which is proof of receipt.
As I was doing research for this post, to make sure I provide you with real and up-to-date information, I came across a NEW IRS type of scam, which in my opinion has the potential to be more dangerous than any of the ones we are already aware of and as a result, we know how to protect ourselves.
The NEW SCAM targets the TAX PREPARERS!!!
As I understand, it comes as an email asking our accountant, who prepared our taxes, to update their e-file(s).
Since I was declared by the IRS agent impersonator who called me from DC “the primary suspect,” of a fictitious crime, I want to live up to his expectations…it seems, the title bestowed upon me, implies certain sophistication and knowledge of the topic discussed. I hope, I am not disappointing.
If you would like to ADD any details, or share a pertinent story, please do so. Unfortunately, this is a process which is continuously changing and to stay safe, we need to be aware and alert.
Have a blessed weekend and stay safe!