WASHINGTON (NEWS10) – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns taxpayers to protect their personal and financial information throughout the year. IRS says impersonation scams, along with other schemes, try to trick people and fraudulently collect their hard-earned money.

According to the IRS, these schemes can involve identity thieves to target people with realistic-looking text message scams, e-mail schemes, and phone scams. In addition, the IRS also warns people to watch out for signs of potential unemployment fraud this tax season.

Since 2015, the IRS, along with state tax agencies, and the nation’s tax industry has taken numerous steps to protect taxpayers, businesses, and the tax system from identity thieves. Security summit partners continue to warn people to watch out for common scams and schemes.

Potential common risks of identity theft include:

  • Text message scams – Texts messages that impersonate the IRS are sent to taxpayers’ smartphones and have referenced COVID-19 and/or “stimulus payments. These messages often contain bogus links claiming to be IRS websites or other online tools.
  • Email phishing scams – The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
  • Phone scams – The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many situations of the phone scams, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other methods of intimidation include verbal threats by law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses. Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country.
  • Unemployment fraud – Many states have experienced a surge in fraudulent unemployment claims filed by organized crime rings using stolen identities. Criminals are using these stolen identitie to fraudulently collect benefits.
  • Victims of ID theft – Tax-related ‘Identity Theft’ occurs when someone uses an individual’s stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return to claim a refund. Taxpayers are often unaware of this activity until they e-file a tax return and discover that a return has already been filed using their SSN. In some cases the IRS may send a letter saying it has identified a suspicious return using their SSN.

The IRS says fraudsters have also impersonated local sheriff’s offices, state departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies, and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never:

  • Call taxpayers to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer to collect taxes.
    • Or threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying
    • and or, demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

In addition, for anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Taxpayers should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call at IRS impersonation scam reporting.
  • Taxpayers are asked to report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending an email to phishing@irs.gov with (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
  • In Additon, taxpayers cab report it to the Federal Trade Commission on FTC.gov, by adding “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

  • Taxpayers can view tax account information online to see the actual amount and also review their payment options.
  • Taxpayers can also call the number on the billing notice or the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to be assisted by an IRS employee.

For more information, visit the IRS tax scams and consumer alerts webpage. Additional information can also be found through the Federal Trade Commission’s identitytheft.gov webpage.