Have you received a call lately from the IRS threatening legal action? Many have, and the calls sound scary, an official-sounding robotic voice tells you to take action now, or the IRS will be forced to take legal action.
It is all very concerning, and it is all very fake.
There are many tax scams out there. The purpose of these scams is to steal your identity, steal your money or file fraudulent returns using your private information. They file a fake return to claim a phony refund and leave you figuring out the mess.
Tax scammers work year-round, not just during tax season, and they target everyone.
The best thing to remember to protect yourself is that the IRS will never initiate contact with you via telephone, text message, email, or social media to request personal or financial information.
The IRS will always first send a letter requesting information.
In this post, we go through some of the scams and explain what you need to do to protect yourself.
Related: Do you want help doing your taxes? Our tax accountants are here for you.
Short version: what to do if the IRS calls? Hang up. Unless you scheduled an appointment with them or are expecting calls, this is fraudulent.
The IRS-Impersonation telephone scam is an aggressive and sophisticated telephone scam that targets taxpayers, especially recent immigrants. It has been going on for a couple of years now and has impacted every corner of the country.
The callers claim to be employees of the IRS but are not. They even use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They can be very convincing and know a lot about you from information gathered online. They will even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
If you don’t answer, they will often leave an urgent callback request and make legal threats.
If you talk to them, they will often tell you that you owe money to the IRS, which you must pay promptly through a pre-loaded debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. They require these forms of payment because once the payment is made, the payor has no recourse.
If you refuse to cooperate, the scammer will threaten you with arrest, deportation, suspension of a business, or even revocation of your driver’s license. The more you refuse, the more aggressive the scammer will become.
Another scam is for the caller to tell you that you have a refund due or that the government wants to pay you money. The objective, in this case, is to gather personal information to steal your identity in other ways.
The first thing to keep in mind is that these callers can be VERY convincing. They are practiced, scripted, and they know how to worm their way into the part of your brain that wants to get the problem solved.
So remember, the IRS will never:
So if you start to hear ANY of these claims, you are talking to a scammer.
First and foremost, hang up. The fact that they call is NOT an obligation to talk to them. You can end the conversation right there.
Other steps you can take:
The other big channel for IRS scams is, unsurprisingly, email. These can take many different forms, but the goal is the same: to get personal information from you that they can use to steal your identity, your money, or both.
The emails can look very official and generally direct the recipient to a website that asks for personal and financial information such as your social security number, bank account, or credit card numbers. These types of scams are “phishing” scams.
Keep in mind that the IRS will not notify you of refunds or payments via email. Nor will they require that you fill out a particular form to receive payment. The IRS always bases refunds on information contained on the federal income tax return that you file.
The IRS never asks for PINs, passwords, or similar secret access information for credit cards, bank accounts, or financial accounts.
If you receive an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, take the following steps:
Other scams that we have seen include:
These scammers pretend to contact you on behalf of a charity, very often law enforcement-related. Be very suspicious of any charity calling you to ask for money. If you do want to donate, don’t do it over the phone or on that call. Be sure to research the organization and make the call yourself. A few minutes here can ensure your money goes to the right place.
Callers, emailers, or salespeople may try to sell you illegal tax shelters. If a shelter seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many tax payers have been caught up in these scams only to find themselves owing significant amounts of back taxes and penalties. If you want advice on paying the right amount of taxes, we are here to help. We can also help you determine whether the shelter you are looking at is a legitimate shelter or a scam.
Some less than honest tax preparers will encourage taxpayers to make frivolous legal arguments to avoid paying taxes. The IRS has a whole website dedicated to these frivolous arguments, which you can find here.
These arguments are all wrong and have been thrown out in court, and you can face some significant penalties for using frivolous arguments to avoid taxes.
These scams only scratch the surface of the phishing and phone scams that are out there. So here are some general steps to take to protect yourself:
Never share personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you initiate the contact or are confident you are dealing with the right person or entity. You can always call somebody back or time the URL into your browser to ensure you are in the right place.
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Above & Beyond
New York City
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New York, New York 10036
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Jeff Coyle, CPA, Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2015. He joined the firm after 20 years of business and accounting experience where he learned the value of accurate reporting, using financial information as a basis for good business decisions and the importance of accounting for management.
He is a diligent financial professional, able to manage the details and turn them into relevant business leading information. He has a strong financial background in construction, technology, consulting services and risk management. He also knows what it takes to create organizations having built teams, grown companies and designed processes for financial analysis and reporting.
His business experience includes:
Creating and preparing financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting.
Planning and preparation of GAAP and other basis financial statements.
Providing insight on financial results and providing advice based on those results.
Jeff also has a long history of helping individuals manage their taxes and plan their finances including:
Income tax planning and strategy.
Filing quarterly and annual taxes.
General financial and planning advice.
Prior to joining the firm in 2015, Jeff was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including Controller and Chief Financial Officer. He has experience across industries, including construction, technology and professional services which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jeff graduated from Montclair State University, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and New Jersey State Society of Public Accountants.
Jody H. Chesnov, CPA, Managing Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2004. After a career of public accounting and general management, Jody knows the value of good financials. Clarity, decision making, and strategy all start with the facts – Jody has been revealing the facts and turning them into good business results for more than three decades.
He takes a pragmatic approach to accounting, finance and business. His work has supported many companies on their path to growth, including helping them find investors, manage scaling and overcome hurdles. His experience and passion for business reach beyond accounting and he helps businesses focus on what the numbers mean organizationally, operationally and financially.
He has a particular expertise in early-stage growth companies. His strengths lie in cutting through the noise to come up with useful, out of the box, solutions that support clients in building their businesses and realizing their larger visions.
Prior to joining the firm in 2004, Jody was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including General Manager, Chief Financial Officer and Controller. He has experience across industries, which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jody graduated with a BBA in Accounting from Baruch College, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
In addition to delivering above and beyond accounting results, Jody is a member of the NYSCPA’s Emerging Tech Entrepreneurial Committee (ETEC), Private Equity and Venture Capital Committee and Family Office Committee.
He is an angel investor through the Westchester Angels, and has served as an advisor for many startup companies and as a mentor through the Founders Institute.
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