Beware of tax scammers, especially if you owe a debt to the IRS

The IRS is warning American taxpayers to stay on the alert for tax scammers, who the agency says are casting their nets wider and wider as their methods grow more sophisticated. Nationwide, tax scam artists have stolen an estimated $20 million from more than 4,000 victims since October 2013, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

In the past, tax scammers typically targeted members of highly vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, recent immigrants and those speaking English as a second language. Today, however, tax scammers are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to target taxpayers from all different backgrounds. To make themselves appear official, they often providing false information in the following forms:

  • Fake telephone caller ID information
  • Fake credentials, such as names, titles and badge numbers
  • Fake IRS letterhead

In addition to falsely identifying themselves as IRS agents, tax scammers often take other steps to appear more credible, including gathering personal information about their victims from the Internet. They may also use threats to create a sense of urgency by suggesting that you must contact them right away or make payment immediately to avoid arrest, deportation or other negative consequences.

Using fear against you

In most cases, tax scammers use fear and intimidation to trick people into making payments or disclosing financial information without taking the time to think things through or verify the identity of the person seeking payment. If you have existing tax problems, you may already be living in fear of the IRS and bracing yourself for the day when the other shoe will fall - which may make you even more vulnerable to scammers.

The criminal tactics employed by tax scammers can not only rob you of your hard-earned money, but if you have any actual problems with the IRS, falling victim to a tax scam can make those problems even worse by decreasing your ability to pay. Therefore, it is all the more important to stay wary and alert to the possibility that criminals posing as the IRS may try to exploit you.

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be the IRS, be sure to pause and take steps to verify their true identity before making a payment or providing them with any information. Keep in mind that the IRS will never threaten you with arrest or demand immediate payment over the phone. Take extra care online, especially when asked to respond to an email or visit websites, and remember that the official IRS website is IRS.gov.

Get help solving your tax problems

If you are concerned about your liability for unpaid tax debts or other IRS matters, it is in your best interest to take steps to proactively address and resolve those issues. Although it may be tempting to ignore the problem and hope it goes away, chances are that putting it off will only make it worse.

Before taking steps to resolve a tax issue on your own, however, it is wise to talk your situation over with an attorney who is knowledgeable about matters of tax law. He or she can help you understand your options and weigh the risks and benefits of each potential course of action in order to minimize your legal and financial risks. For help resolving problems with the IRS, contact the experienced tax lawyers at Insight Law.