Phishing and social engineering attacks are real and often work which is why they are used.
If you have not yet received a phone call from an IRS scammer, be ready. The diversity of the scams seem to be expanding. IRS warned people in February and again in April of the increase in bogus calls demanding tax payments. A study by Pindrop, a company that provides services to secure phone and voice communications, found that the volume of fraudulent calls has vastly increased since 2014. The study provides an audio recording of one such scam call.
I received an IRS scam call this week that went to my voice mail. Here are some highlights:
- The caller had a neutral female voice, rather like what you would expect an IRS agent to sound like
- She stated her name and that she was with the Reno IRS office. She repeated the information
- She stated she was assigned to my case
- She asked me to call her number which she repeated
- The call back number had a Reno area code
What case was she referencing? I had not received a letter from the IRS about a case. Was the call supposed to be about my individual taxes or my business taxes?
I knew I did not owe any additional taxes, so I assumed it was a fraudulent call. To confirm I did the following:
- Checked the Reno IRS office number; the callback prefix was not even close to the IRS office number.
- Ran the phone number through a search engine. It was not associated with the IRS; it was a mobile phone number. The odds that the IRS assigns mobile phone numbers to agents seems very remote to me.
The caller did not tell me her office hours – 8am to 5pm? Closed at noon? She didn’t tell me who to talk to if she wasn’t available. And she provided no details about the “case”. Did I owe yet more money? Did they need to verify information? Had they contacted my CPA?
What You Can Do
If you receive a bogus call and feel confident you don’t owe the IRS more money, nor have any pending business with them, the IRS has the following recommendations:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also 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.
The online IRS scam form asks for basic contact details about yourself and summary information about the call. It takes just a few minutes to enter the information.
If in doubt, call your tax preparer or the IRS directly. Don’t provide information over the phone unless you are absolutely sure who you are talking with.
If you do owe money or think the IRS may be legitimately trying to reach you, the IRS recommends:
- Hang up on the caller
- Don’t provide any information
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Criminals are using different tactics to fraudulently steal your money and new scams appear regularly. One email scam is asking for personal information. Another asks you to immediately update your IRS e-file. Another scam is targeted to tax preparers to update their filing information. Tax preparers are sent an email with bogus links that allow the criminals to capture passwords that would allow them to access their clients’ information. For details on various scams, the IRS provided this alert.
Learn more about potential scams and how to protect yourself and your business at the National Cybersecurity Institute.
IRS. (2016). Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Taz Scams for the 2016 Filing Season. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Phone-Scams-Continue-to-be-a-Serious-Threat,-Remain-on-IRS-Dirty-Dozen-List-of-Tax-Scams-for-the-2016-Filing-Season
IRS (2016). Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts
Pindrop (2016). Largest IRS Phone Scam Likely Exceeded 450,000 Potential Victims in March. Retrieved from https://www.pindrop.com/irs-phone-scam-live-call_analysis/