Better Business Bureau offices across the U.S. are seeing a big increase this week in reports of the “tax imposter scam” (also called the “IRS scam”), which was the top scam reported to BBB last year. Con artists are posing as IRS agents and calling consumers claiming they owe back taxes. Targets are instructed to send money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, or face terrifying consequences such as arrest, lawsuits, and fines.
In the past year, BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) received more than 6,200 reports of tax collector imposter scams in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that more than 5,000 victims have lost more than $26 million in the past two years as a result of the scam. Although the scam does not seem to be targeting Canadian citizens this week, tax imposters are the top scam in Canada, too.
Tax imposters often go to great lengths to seem realistic. Over the phone, the scammer may provide a fake badge number and name. Emails often use the agency’s logo, colors, and official-sounding language.
BBB’s advice is to hang up on the caller or delete the email.
How to Spot a Tax Impostor Scam:
Here are some ways to spot a fake tax collector.
- It’s the first you’ve heard about the debt. Tax agencies don’t call, text, or email without first contacting you by mail. If you’ve never received a letter about past due taxes, the “agent” is most likely a scammer.
- You are pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The government will give you the chance to ask questions or appeal what you owe.
- Payment must be made by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or other non-traditional payment methods. These methods are largely untraceable and non-reversible. Tax agencies don’t demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.
U.S.: If you owe taxes or you think you might, contact the IRS at 800.829.1040 or irs.gov. IRS employees at that line can help you if there really is an issue. Also check out the IRS’s list of imposter scams.
Canada: Check out the CRA’s fraud webpage for their contact information and details on accessing your online account.
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