Tax Day – Don’t Fall Victim to the Taxpayer Advocate Service Scam
It’s tax day which means tax scammers are also in the final days of their seasonal push to take your tax refunds, steal your identity, and deploy other creative was to commit tax related cybercrimes. But what if you have already filed a legitimate return or find you cannot pay your federal taxes on time? Well, there’s a tax scam for that too. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns of yet another variant of tax identity theft – the Taxpayer Advocate Service scam.
Even if your taxes are filed and you’ve received your return, you are not immune to attempted tax-related scams. The IRS warns about a new variation of the IRS impersonation phone scam. In this taxpayer scam, criminals call taxpayers and impersonate representatives from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS.) They either dog for personal data or threaten taxpayers with criminal actions if they don’t make payment during the phone call.
Like other IRS impersonation scams, the Taxpayer Advocate Service scam involves thieves placing phone calls to their intended victims and then fraudulently claiming to be from TAS. With the TAS scam, a robocall is sent first using a spoofed IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service number at the Houston or Brooklyn office. The robocall urges the recipient to call back. If the taxpayer returns the call, the scammer claims to be from TAS using a fake IRS badge number. They then try to gather personal data like Social Security number. The scammer may also become hostile and demand payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
Hostile tax scam callers may threaten targets with jail time or a driver’s license suspension. In that scenario, they might even call back from another spoofed phone number pretending to be from local law enforcement or the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
TAS scam callers may also try to convince a taxpayer that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal data to receive the money. The scam caller might even know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number from information bought on the dark web or from a social engineering attack.
What is the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service?
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent and legitimate organization within the IRS. TAS helps taxpayers resolve IRS issues. If someone cannot pay their taxes, TAS may help. However, TAS does not initiate contact with taxpayers, someone needing assistance would contact TAS first.
What is Tax-related identity theft?
Tax-related identity theft occurs when a scammer or hacker uses your Social Security number to file a fraudulent IRS tax return and claims a refund. The thief may have the refund sent to a bank account or address they have access to. They might also send the return to you, and then contact you and continue the scam to have the money forwarded to them
How to Protect Against Tax-Related Scams
Tax-related scams are initiated by criminals. Remember the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer by phone or email. The IRS always sends official notices though US Postal mail first. Scammers are capable of spoofing official IRS phone numbers to make it appear they are calling from an IRS office. To test to if a call is scam, you can hang up and call the office number listed on an official IRS website.
- IRS agents do not call taxpayers to tell them about an unexpected tax refund
- IRS agents do not take payments over the phone. They also never take payments in the form of gift cards, debit cards, prepaid credit cards, or wire transfers. If there is any money owed, the IRS will send a bill in the mail
- Taxpayers always have the opportunity to question or appeal any amount owed
- If a scammer calls, you hang up and report the phone call to the IRS
Michelle writes about cyber security as well as how to protect your data online. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers