NewsJune 18, 2024
IRS alerts seniors to rising impersonation scams: Learn how to protect yourself from fraudsters posing as government officials. Understand the tactics, recognize the signs and know where to report suspicious activity.
Internal Revenue Service
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As part of continuing efforts to protect the senior community, the Internal Revenue Service last week issued a warning about the rising threat of impersonation scams.

These scams are targeting older adults in Missouri and elsewhere across the country by pretending to be government officials, aiming to steal sensitive personal information and money. By posing as representatives from agencies such as the IRS, or other government agencies, these fraudsters use fear and deceit to exploit their victims.

“Scammers often target seniors, attempting to steal personal information through phone calls, emails or text messages by pretending to be from the IRS or other agencies or businesses,” IRS commissioner Danny Werfel said. “Preventing these types of scams requires assistance from many different places. By partnering with other federal agencies and others in the tax community, we can reach more seniors and other taxpayers to help protect them against these terrible scams.”

The IRS has been engaged in long-term efforts to protect against scams and other related schemes, including identity theft. This has been an ongoing focus of the Security Summit partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax professional community since 2015.

Understanding threats:

The IRS has identified a concerning trend where fraudulent actors are increasingly targeting unsuspecting individuals, particularly senior citizens, by masquerading as IRS agents. Victims are pressured into making immediate payments through unorthodox methods such as gift cards or wire transfers under the pretense of resolving fictitious tax liabilities or securing false refunds.

These scammers deploy advanced techniques to fabricate a veneer of credibility, including the manipulation of caller IDs to appear legitimate. Here are just a few examples of their schemes:

Impersonation of known entities: Fraudsters often pose as representatives from government agencies — including the IRS, Social Security Administration and Medicare — others in the tax community or familiar businesses and charities. By spoofing caller IDs, scammers can deceive victims into believing they are receiving legitimate communications.

Claims of problems or prizes: Scammers frequently fabricate urgent scenarios, such as outstanding debts or promises of significant prize winnings. Victims may be falsely informed that they owe the IRS money, are owed a tax refund, need to verify accounts or must pay fees to claim nonexistent lottery winnings.

Pressure for immediate action: These deceitful actors create a sense of urgency, demanding that victims take immediate action without allowing time for reflection. Common tactics include threats of arrest, deportation, license suspension or computer viruses to coerce quick compliance.

Specified payment methods: To complicate traceability, scammers insist on unconventional payment methods, including cryptocurrency, wire transfers, payment apps or gift cards, and often require victims to provide sensitive information like gift card numbers.

Scam precautions and reporting:

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If an individual receives an unexpected call from someone alleging to be from the IRS, but he has not been notified by mail about any issues with his IRS account, he should hang up immediately. The call is likely from a scammer.

Do not return the call using the number provided by the caller or the one displayed on the caller ID. If taxpayers are uncertain about the legitimacy of IRS communications, they can contact IRS customer service for verification at (800) 829-1040, or for the hearing impaired, TTY/TDD (800) 829-4059.

Electronic scams are also on the rise, with scammers sending malicious emails and texts posing as IRS representatives to steal personal information. The IRS reminds taxpayers that it does not initiate contact via email, text or social media regarding tax bills or refunds.

Report the call or electronic scam by visiting the hotline page of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and using an IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or by calling (800) 366-4484. Forms to report different types of fraud are available on the hotline page of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration website. Taxpayers can click the appropriate option under "IRS Scams and Fraud" and follow the instructions.

Key points to remember:

The IRS will never demand immediate payment via prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. Typically, if taxes are owed, the IRS will send a bill by mail first.

The IRS will never threaten to involve local police or other law enforcement agencies.

The IRS will never demand payment without allowing opportunities to dispute or appeal the amount owed.

The IRS will never request credit, debit or gift card numbers over the phone.

Remaining vigilant and informed about these scams can help protect taxpayers from financial loss and identity theft. The IRS and partnering federal agencies urge everyone to be cautious, especially when dealing with unsolicited communications concerning taxes.

In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice introduced the National Elder Fraud Hotline to address fraud targeting elderly Americans and support affected individuals. An individual who has fallen victim to elder fraud can contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at (833) 372-8311.

The hotline operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, eastern time, and services are available in English, Spanish and other languages.

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