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How often do you find yourself turning away from your ringing phone as the words “SCAM LIKELY” pop up?

As helpful as it is for our phones to now offer such a disclaimer, we can’t deny that some scam calls will, unfortunately, still come through. Thus, as IRS scams are some of the most common and persistent of modern scams, it’s important that consumers educate themselves on how they work and how best to avoid them.

Tax Scam 101

“IRS imposter scams occur when someone contacts you pretending to work for the IRS,” as explained by the United States Government. “The imposter may contact you by phone, email, postal mail, or even a text message.”

Anytime you are unexpectedly contacted by a person claiming to be a member of the Internal Revenue Service, we recommend that you exercise caution. Most notably, these scams require one of two things: either that you immediately pay outstanding taxes or that you verify your identity with personal information.

However, the IRS has reported that it never demands upfront payment and will always mail you an outstanding bill should you owe the government money.

Additionally, if you have further questions regarding what common scams you should currently be on the lookout for, we recommend checking out the IRS’s list of “Dirty Dozen” scams for 2020.

What Not To Do

As previously mentioned, many IRS scams work by demanding immediate payment or identification. Thus, abstaining from giving away any money or personal details will be the simplest way to avoid such scams. 

Otherwise, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also recommends that consumers follow these five steps:

    1. Never wire money. If you believe you owe money to the IRS, wait to see whether a bill comes in the mail or contact the IRS directly.
    2. Never pay for a prize. Some IRS scams involve a false claim that you have won the lottery or other form of financial compensation — and that you now owe tax money for those prizes.
    3. Withhold personal and financial information. Again, IRS officials will not personally contact you for this information, so be sure you’re not tricked into giving it away freely.
    4. Do not trust a given number or name. Some scammers may go as far as to provide the name of an alleged federal agency they work for or disguise their area code so that your caller ID pops up as receiving a call from Washington D.C. Be wary of this surface-level information.
    5. Request to have your number put on the national “Do Not Call” Registry. While this might not necessarily stop scammers in their tracks, it can at least provide you with the assurance that you should not be receiving unexpected calls from telemarketers. You can register your phone number at donotcall.gov.

Taking Action

Ultimately, the best method for skirting these scams is to exercise caution and skepticism, but you can also take action. 

If you believe you have been contacted by or made a victim of an IRS scam, or if you have the suspicion that another business or individual is participating in a scam, the IRS has detailed information on how to report a scam based on the type of activity.

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