Earlier this month, we reported that several states had implemented taxpayer identity protection programs as a way to cut down on tax fraud. These programs, though well intentioned, might actually be increasing the risk of phone fraud for some residents. We asked ‘How long will it be until fraudsters begin targeting residents of these states, claiming to be with the Department of Revenue as a ploy to steal identifying information?’
Though Iowa is not participating in the identity protection program, it is wrestling with similar problems. The Des Moines Register reported a new scam involving an automated phone call, which spoofs the phone number of the official Iowa taxpayer service number. After answering, Iowans are told they are eligible for a tax refund. They are then asked if they want the refund deposited into a Department of Revenue account or donated to an animal charity. In fact, these calls are likely an attempt to steal bank account information.
The Iowa Department of Revenue is currently warning taxpayers about the scam. Victoria Daniels, a spokesperson for the department, told Radio Iowa, “First of all, we will not call you to tell you you have a refund. Second of all, we would not call using an automated system with one exception. And that is, if you owe us some money and that money is collectable, you may receive a call from our automated collections center”
That exception might become a problem for the department, and local taxpayers. Iowa is essentially telling residents that they will never make automated phone calls about tax refunds, but automated phone calls about taxes owed may be legitimate. Many Iowans are likely to be confused by this warning, finding robocalls asking for money more suspicious than those promising a refund.
Iowa could take a page from the Federal Internal Revenue Service when it comes to preventing tax related phone fraud. The IRS tells consumers that they will never initiate contact with taxpayers over the phone or email. According to their website, “The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.”
Consumers who receive scam calls should file a complaint with the FTC. Iowans can also contact the Iowa Department of Revenue and the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Division to report fraud attempts.