It’s that time of year again, tax filing season. In just a one-month time span, Coloradans lost $1 million to scammers claiming to work for the IRS. We want to make sure you don’t become a part of that statistic. I sat down with a special agent from the IRS to talk about ways to avoid becoming the victim of a scam and ways to protect yourself from identity theft this tax season. You may have seen the story on KKTV 11 News Sunday night.
Many of us have received the annoying IRS scam call, many of which say you have a warrant out for your arrest. This is one example of a scam voicemail: “Hi, this is Officer Melvin Bencheck calling you from Department of Internal Revenue Services. We have received some legal petition complaints against your name concerning an illegal tax evasion. We are about to issue a warrant for your arrest.”
“What we find is these are just random calls,” said Steven Osborne, Special Agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation for Denver field office. “They’re very aggressive in saying you owe taxes and they want payment immediately. The fact is that’s not how the IRS operates. You’re never going to be notified that you owe taxes over the telephone. You’re always going to receive it in the mail.”
The scammers are aggressive and demand payment immediately, but that’s not how the IRS works. “If you owe money to the IRS, you have taxes due, there’s a due process that takes place,” said Osborne. “This is never going to be a surprise to you and it’s going to be many available options for you to actually pay that tax due.”
I’ve talked to a lot of viewers who have told me they like to tease the scammers and play along with their scheme, but that’s not a good idea. “What we recommend is that you hang up immediately if you receive one of these calls,” said Osborne. “It’s certainly tempting to argue with them, but the data shows the longer you’re on the call, the more likely you are to pay over money.”
Now that tax season is here, there’s another issue you need to be aware of: identity theft. “They’ve been stealing IDs throughout the year, waiting for filing season and they’re going to file false returns early in order to get the refunds,” said Osborne. “A lot of the times, legitimate tax payers, they’re going to file their return, only to find it rejected by the IRS. That’s a key sign that your ID has been stolen.”
“The sooner you file your return, the better,” said Osborne. “If the scammer files a return in your name and it’s already filed, then their’s will get rejected and no harm done.”
Prevention is key. Osborne said to make sure you secure your personal information and be vigilant about protecting your identity. Share these tips with your parents and your kids to keep everyone in the loop about the IRS scam and about how to avoid identity theft this tax season.