As IRS Ceases In-Person Visits Amidst Ongoing Scams, Here’s How to Stay Safe in the Digital Tax World
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made a significant decision to end in-person visits immediately in response to the rising threat of scam artists impersonating IRS agents. The practice of unannounced visits which has been in place for decades created confusion and anxiety among taxpayers and IRS employees alike. With a focus on reducing public confusion and prioritizing safety, the IRS has chosen to embrace alternative communication methods, per USA Today. However, even with the end of in-person visits, scammers are finding new ways to trick people through various fraudulent schemes.
Legitimate IRS contact methods
While in-person visits are being curtailed, the IRS will continue to utilize legitimate ways to communicate with taxpayers. Primarily, the IRS will send appointment letters known as 725-B through the U.S. Postal Service to schedule follow-up meetings. It is crucial for taxpayers to be aware of the proper ways the IRS would contact them to avoid falling victim to scams.
When dealing with an IRS agent in person, individuals can verify their identity by requesting their IRS-issued credentials or their HSPD-12 card, which is a federal employee identification. For further verification of an enrolled agent, taxpayers can reach out to the IRS via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, providing the agent's first and last name, along with their enrolled agent number. The IRS typically responds to these inquiries within 72 hours.
It's essential to note that the IRS does not use text messages or social media to collect personal information or tax debts. They do not demand immediate payment through prepaid debit cards, gift cards, or wire transfers, nor do they threaten to involve law enforcement for non-payment. Additionally, the IRS does not make unexpected calls regarding tax refunds or demand payment without offering taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
Current IRS scams
Despite the discontinuation of in-person visits, scam artists are actively exploiting other communication channels to deceive taxpayers. Some of the prevalent IRS scams include:
The Economic Impact Payment Scheme: Scammers send fraudulent emails claiming eligibility for the Economic Impact Payments and trick recipients into providing personal information on fake websites.
'You May Be Eligible for the ERC' Claim: This scam falsely promises eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit (a pandemic-related credit that select employers qualified for) without providing details on how one qualifies. It targets people through social media, unsolicited phone calls, emails, and fake government letters.
'Claim Your Tax Refund Online' Scheme: Scammers attempt to lure individuals into clicking on false links in emails that claim they have missed their tax refund.
The 'Help You Fix-It' Text Scheme: Scammers send text messages informing recipients of issues with their tax returns and urge them to click on a link for resolution.
'Delivery Service' Scam: This mail scam uses a cardboard envelope from a delivery service containing a letter with the IRS masthead to deceive people into thinking they are owed a refund.
Reporting IRS Scams
Recognizing and reporting IRS scams is crucial to protect oneself and others from falling victim to fraudulent schemes. If you encounter an IRS impersonation scam, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration through the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. For phone scams, submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant and specify "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes. Unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS should be forwarded to email@example.com.
More from MARKETREALIST