We’re right in the middle of tax season – which, for most of us, is honesty a bit of a snooze. While we’re sorting through our finances from the last year, we should stay alert though! Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued warnings on a number of scams. These could come in many forms, from phone call to email. There are also scams that specifically target people who are hard of hearing.
Here, we run through the different scams to watch out for.
A video relay service (VRS), also known as video interpreting service, is a telecommunication device that assists people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired with conventional telephone calls. If you receive a phone call from a business or federal organization, a corresponding video with a translator or captions will appear on a screen.
The IRS has issued a warning of con artists who use VRS to scam deaf and hard of hearing people. In these instances, people will receive a phone call from what appears to be the IRS, requesting personal information, as well as banking information to steal money.
Sometimes, the con artist will alter their caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling, and they will threaten you with arrest if you do not pay immediate. They may also become hostile or insulting. Another scam involves people being told they have a refund coming; in this case, the con artist will request personal information.
The IRS warns, “Deaf and hard of hearing people should avoid giving out personal and financial information to anyone they do not know. Always confirm that the person requesting information is who they say they are.”
But how do you know? Unfortunately, VRS interpreters do not screen calls for validity, which means a con artist who says they are from the IRS could be patched through to you. Here are some things to keep in mind, from the IRS.
The IRS will never “demand immediate payment and require the payment be made in a specific way, such as by prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. In most cases, the IRS will not call taxpayers about taxes owed without first having mailed a letter to the taxpayer.” In other words, if someone is requesting immediate payment and you have not received a hard copy of the request in the mail, do not comply!
The IRS will never “threaten that local police or other law-enforcement groups will immediately arrest taxpayers for not paying a tax bill.” In other words, if the person you’re talking to says that if you don’t pay, they’ll send the authorities to your home, do not comply!
The IRS will never “demand that taxpayers pay taxes without giving them the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed” or “ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.” If the person on the other end of the line asks for these things, do not comply!
The IRS has also warned of scams that come through email (known as phishing). In 2016, the IRS saw a 400% surge in phishing and malware incidents. From the IRS: “Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, and verifying PIN information.”
How do you know if you’re receiving real communication from the IRS, or if it’s a scam? The IRS tells us to pay attention to the website link provided in the email: “The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between ‘IRS’ and ‘gov’), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). These emails are not from the IRS.”
Keep in mind one important fact: the IRS does not initiate communication through email. The IRS says, “Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org
.” For more information, visit the IRS’s phishing website here
If you believe you’ve experienced any of the above scams, file a complaint immediately to the FTC Complaint Assistant. If someone has impersonated the IRS, be sure to include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in your notes.
If you owe taxes or think you owe taxes but are not sure, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. If you use VRS, then use your VRS service to call. The IRS will be able to tell you your exact tax status.
If you aren’t sure about your tax status, or if you’ve never received a letter from the IRS requesting payment but have received threats or requests over the phone or VRs or email, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
For more information, visit the IRS’s page on scams here
If you experience hearing loss, one of the best forms of protection is having your hearing tested! Contact us at Puget Sound Hearing Aid and Audiology
today for more information.