Although tax season has been over for two months now, phone scammers are continuing to target victims with a new version of the venerable IRS phone fraud scam, using the agency’s electronic payment system as a lure.
The latest iteration of the scheme involves scammers calling victims and trying to bully them into paying imaginary tax bills with a prepaid debit card. The caller says that he works for the IRS and tells the victim that the agency has sent two certified letters to the victim’s house, but the letters were returned as undeliverable. The scammer will then tell the victim that he will be arrested if he doesn’t pay the tax bill immediately and says that the prepaid debit card is linked to the IRS’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. EFTPS is the free, automated system the IRS provides for tax payments, but it doesn’t involve the use of prepaid debit cards.
The basic elements of this scam are quite similar to other IRS phone scams that have been going on for many years. The key piece of the scam is the urgency. Fraudsters know that using the name of the IRS will intimidate potential victims and telling victims that the debt must be paid right away creates a sense of panic. People are scared of the IRS and will want any trouble with the agency to go away as quickly as possible.
“This is a new twist to an old scam,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement on the new scam. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”
Scammers often will use caller ID spoofing software to make their calls appear as if they’re actually coming from the IRS, adding another layer of credibility. But the key to recognizing these calls as scams is to understand that the IRS doesn’t demand immediate payment of taxes over the phone and never asks people to pay tax bills with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.
CC By-SA image from 401(k) 2012