December 31, 2015

IRS Scams are on the Rise, Again

By Gary Barron, Partner, Tax & Business Services

IRS Scams are on the Rise, Again

I recently received a frantic call from a client, “The IRS is on the other line, and they are threatening to criminally prosecute me if I don't immediately send them $3,570.” Using that trademark cocksure attitude found among the best of my profession, I told my client that this was a scam and to just hang up the phone. “No,” my client replied, “the agent told me that I have unpaid taxes for 2005 and 2008, and if I don't immediately come up with the money, the police will be at my door by nightfall.” Once again, I told my client to calm down and just hang up the phone. “Joe”, I said “Have you received any written correspondence from the IRS?” “No,” he replied. “You know that 2005 and 2008 are beyond the statute of limitations.” Silence. Still sensing the perspiration dripping from his brow, I finally said, “Joe, I've been doing your return for 15 years. You don't make enough money to be criminally prosecuted for tax evasion.” There was silence on the other end of the phone, then laughter.

This is the third case like this that I've heard about over the last couple of weeks. The other two calls were to another CPA and a tax attorney that I know. They just played along to see how far the scammer on the other end of the phone would go. The daily tax updates are constantly advising accountants that the IRS continues to be bombarded with calls from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. The Service urges taxpayers to contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or the IRS if they have any suspicions about a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment.

Please remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by telephone, letter, email, etc., to request social security numbers, Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), passwords, or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank, or other financial accounts. IRS News Release IR-2014-81 provides detailed information on what taxpayers should do if they receive suspicious calls and how they can be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure.

So, what have we learned here today?

  1. Stay calm if you receive a questionable call from someone purporting to be from the IRS.
  2. NEVER give out any sensitive information over the phone such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers….
  3. Give your Marcum Tax Advisor a call if you are unsure or concerned. (We can always use a good laugh.)