Just because it isn’t income tax filing season doesn’t mean that scammers posing as IRS agents take time off.
This month, Rhonda Butaineh and her husband received five calls from scammers claiming to be agents with the “Tax Audit Department in Washington, D.C.”
“They threatened my husband and said they had audited our taxes,” said Butaineh, who lives in Garland, Texas. “They said they were ‘RS agents’ with the Tax Audit Department in Washington, D.C. They audited our taxes, and there were discrepancies.”
The scammers, who Butaineh said spoke with heavy accents, didn’t elaborate on what the “discrepancies” were.
“They wanted to know if we had foreign accounts,” she said.
The scammers asked her husband whether he sent money overseas. He does send money to his mother in Jordan.
“They said the NSA agents were going to be there (at their home) to arrest him if he didn’t take care of this,” Butaineh said. “They would detain him for 72 hours.”
Because of her family background, Butaineh said she knew it was a scam. Her mother and stepfather are retired IRS agents.
“I knew that’s not how they operate,” Butaineh said. “I knew it was a scam, but my husband still was very worried. NSA is threatening.”
She got her husband to hang up the phone before the scammers got a chance to demand a specific amount of money to settle the “discrepancies.”
Mike Robinson of Dallas received a similar call this month from a woman who also spoke with a heavy accent.
The woman, who identified herself as “Liza Brown from U.S. Treasury Legal Affairs,” told Robinson that the agency had begun “legal proceedings” against him.
The woman “requested that I call to settle the matter before it was too late,” Robinson said. “No details referencing any specific tax issue or anything else. Phone was not answered when I called back.”
The call scared him.
“The IRS, Treasury (the IRS’ parent agency) — those things strike fear in anybody’s heart, even if you haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
Don’t let the scammers intimidate you. Knowledge is power, and here are some things you need to know:
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact through the telephone.
“The IRS does not make initial telephone contact with taxpayers regarding a tax issue,” said Clay Sanford, IRS spokesman in Dallas. “Persons would get mailed notices from the IRS before getting a phone call.”
The agency also won’t ask for payment using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, and it won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
Don’t expect the IRS to initiate contact with you through email, text messaging or social media to request personal or financial information.
The IRS doesn’t ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential information for credit cards, bank accounts or other accounts.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
Report it to the treasury inspector general for tax administration at 800-366-4484.
Ask the caller for his or her IRS badge number, which real IRS employees have, and then call 800-829-1040 to confirm it. Be aware that the scammer may brazenly volunteer a fake badge number before you even ask for one.
In any case, don’t fall for these scams. The result could be even worse than an IRS audit.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Pamela Yip is a personal finance columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org; she cannot make individual replies.
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