The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is raising the alarm about identity thieves and fraudsters, releasing a pair of public service announcements to educate taxpayers about the continuing threat of Internal Revenue Service impersonation scams.

“IRS impersonation scams continue to plague Americans and have claimed victims in every State,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement Friday. “TIGTA’s new public service announcements share advice on how to recognize these scams.”

TIGTA noted that scammers undermine federal tax administration by impersonating IRS employees as a way to coax unwary taxpayers into disclosing their personally identifiable information (PII) and stealing their money. Such impersonators can claim to be IRS employees on the telephone or may misuse IRS logos, seals or symbols to create official-looking letters and emails.

Fraudsters frequently inform their victims that they owe money to the IRS and need to pay their tax debts through a preloaded debit card, wire transfer, or gift card from Apple iTunes, Walmart or Target. Sometimes they trick taxpayers into providing their personal info, which the impersonator then uses to commit identity theft.

Between October 2013 and March 2022, TIGTA received more than 2.5 million contacts from taxpayers who reported they had communicated with individuals who claimed to be IRS employees. The impersonators warned the victims they owed extra taxes and if they didn’t immediately pay the purported debts, they would be arrested or face other adverse consequences.

As of March 31, 2022, 16,038 victims have reported to TIGTA they had lost over $85 million, collectively, to impersonation scams. TIGTA is fighting back and has initiated 893 impersonation scam-related investigations, which, as of March 2022, have led to 300 individuals being charged in Federal court. Of those, 197 individuals have been convicted and sentenced collectively to over 910 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay more than $224 million in restitution.

Because of their complexity, however, such scams are often not resolved quickly and have claimed victims in every state. The top five states in terms of the number of victims who have suffered financial losses are California, New York, Texas, Florida and New Jersey.

Along with scam phone calls, taxpayers can be tricked by fraudulent IRS websites, or they receive social media-based communications and/or phishing emails, text messages or other communications, claiming to come from the IRS and asking for sensitive personal information or payments in order to receive a tax refund or credit, such as the Economic Impact Payment or Child Tax Credit. These are scams. Taxpayers shouldn’t click on any embedded links or open any attached files. Scammers may use these methods to install malicious software on a victim’s phone or computer.

Scammers also try to convince victims to deposit fraudulent or stolen U.S. Treasury checks into a victim’s bank account. After the victim makes the deposit, the scammers ask the victim to transmit funds from that deposit to another account, or use those funds to purchase prepaid cards.

Taxpayers can report impersonation scam attempts to TIGTA at tips.TIGTA.gov.

Source: Accounting Today

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