With the arrival of tax bills and refunds in the late spring and early summer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers against various tax scams that have begun to crop up.
Two specific scams that the IRS highlighted last week are variations of long-running tax scams, including one where taxpayers are threatened with a tax bill from a non-existent government agency. The other scam, which the IRS has deemed “the SSN hustle” is when scammers claim a taxpayer’s Social Security number is suspended or canceled.
According to a warning from the IRS, the “fake tax agency” scam is when a letter is sent in the mail with a threat of a lien or levy from the IRS, typically based on fake delinquent taxes owed to the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.”
“There is no such agency,” the IRS said. “The lien notification scam also likely references the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a legitimate organization.”
“The SSN hustle,” according to the IRS, is a variation of an IRS impersonation scam typically done over the phone. Scammers threaten to suspend or cancel a person’s SSN if they don’t pay overdue taxes.
“It is yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails,” the IRS said.
The agency reiterated it does not leave pre-recorded messages over the phone. It also warned against unsolicited emails requesting personal information, requests for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, email or text or threatening messages — particularly threats of arrest or law enforcement involvement.
Officials have been warning Opens a New Window. taxpayers to watch out for “robocall” scams, reminding people not to release their personal or financial information Opens a New Window. over the phone.
In an April report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it received more than 76,000 reports about Social Security scammers that led to a reported $19 million in losses in the last year. Those who fell for the scam lost an average of $1,500, though some report losing up to tens of thousands of dollars.
“In the past few months, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database has seen Social Security Administration (SSA) imposter reports skyrocket,” the agency said.
Here’s how Americans can avoid falling victim to these scams, according to Fraud.org and the FTC.
- Don’t trust caller ID: Scammers can trick people’s caller ID to make it appear like the call is coming from a government official. Those who do receive a suspicious call should contact Social Security’s customer service at 1-800-772-1213 to set the record straight.
- Don’t give out personal information: People should never give their Social Security number, bank information or other personal details to an unknown caller.
- Social Security will never suspend your number: Fraud.org said it’s highly unlikely the agency would unexpectedly take such drastic actions. Call the SSA to get further confirmation.
- Don’t trust the caller just because they know some personal information: It’s most likely a scam if the person on the other end asks to confirm this information, Fraud.org reported.
- Talk about the experience: Those who’ve been targeted should alert friends and neighbors about the call to spread information.