Bold New Tax Scams

Some IRS scam artists are using bolder techniques to get their hands on taxpayers’ personal and financial information.  Emails are very common; we have seen many phony IRS email campaigns over the years.  Deceptive mailers are also prevalent, many of them rising to the level of what I would call a scam.  Far less common is a direct phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS employee, but there has been somewhat of an outbreak of these recently.

Blogger and tax attorney, Kelly Phillips Erb, reported that one of her clients recently got a call from somebody claiming to be from the IRS.  It is Erb’s opinion that IRS scammers are taking advantage of the government shutdown; they feel emboldened by the fact that victims can’t very well call the IRS right now to report them.  A local news source in Minnesota has also recognized an uptick in IRS phone scams, although I don’t agree with them that the test for identifying a phony IRS call is a thick accent.  I have also been informed of a couple IRS phone scams close to home (or perhaps the same one?), one from a client and one from a concerned taxpayer.  The latter was told that the IRS was going to come to his place of employment to arrest him.

Not to get too psychoanalytic or anything, but phony IRS phone calls takes the deception to a whole new level.  Granted, if somebody is tricked into giving up their social security number or credit card number, to them it doesn’t matter if it occurred in an email or over the phone.  The result is the same either way.   However, I do feel like it takes a different type of criminal to be bold enough to swindle somebody in a one-on-one situation.  An email campaign is so impersonal; a criminal can reach thousands of people with a couple clicks of a mouse.  But in a successful phone scam, the criminal needs to utter multiple lies to multiple victims.  It just seems like a much bolder form of tax scam and hopefully it is not a sign of things to come.

The IRS Dirty Dozen List is Suspiciously Familiar

Wouldn’t David Letterman’s credibility be questioned if he reused the same Top Ten List each night but changed the order of the list?  That’s what the IRS is doing with its “Dirty Dozen” list.  It’s basically the same thing year after year — a stern warning from the Commish about not looking for tax relief amid tax scams, followed by the same 12 scams rearranged in a different order.  Presumably the list is arranged in a logical order with the most common scams at the top.  But is the order of the list based on empirical data, or is it just anecdotal?  Who knows?

This year the obligatory stern warning went something like this:

Taxpayers should be careful and avoid falling into a trap with the Dirty Dozen. Scam artists will tempt people in-person, on-line and by e-mail with misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. Don’t be fooled by these scams.

~ IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman

And the top three scam were . . .

  1. Identity Theft
  2. Phishing
  3. Return Preparer Fraud

Illegal offshore bank accounts was a close 4th on this year’s list, which is not a surprise given how aggressively the IRS has worked shut them down. I don’t mean to make light of tax scams; they are real, and we should definitely stay vigilant. I am just amused by IRS gimmicks, and this looks like another one.