Pagosa Springs Police Chief William Rockensock is urging taxpayers to use caution as local officials have seen a recent uptick in incidents involving scammers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Too, the IRS recently issued consumer alerts providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.
In the scam, taxpayers receive unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the government agency.
As of August, the IRS and the treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) estimated that victims had lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.
The following information regarding the scams is from the IRS.
“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
According to the IRS, these callers can sound convincing and may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information.
Some characteristics of these scams include:
• Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
• Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
• Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
• Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
• Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
• After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim.
The IRS, however, states that people can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a telltale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone for immediate payment.
5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
• If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to TIGTA at (800) 366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
• If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at ftc.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure — the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.
The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to email@example.com.
For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.