Some brazen criminals rip off unwary taxpayers by impersonating agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They’ll call and insist you have an unpaid tax bill and face arrest unless you pay up immediately. Sometimes it will be in the form of a robocalls, with an automated message requesting a call back to resolve a supposed tax problem.
The fake appeals can also come by regular mail, email and text. A recent twist, according to the IRS, involves scammers sending letters with the IRS masthead in “a cardboard envelope from a delivery service.” The letter says that the recipient is being contacted regarding an “unclaimed refund,” and offers a phone number that is not the IRS’s. The taxpayer is asked to divulge personal information — “including detailed pictures of driver’s licenses,” the IRS says, “that can be used by identity thieves to try obtaining a tax refund and other sensitive financial information.”
Another version of the scam, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has noted, involves criminals sending a text about a “tax rebate” or some other tax refund or benefit. “No matter what the text says,” the FTC warns, “it’s a scammer phishing for your information. And if you click on the link to claim ‘your refund,’ you’re exposing yourself to identity theft or malware that the scammer could install on your phone.”
Scammers also deploy phishing emails, often targeting college students, faculty and staff members with addresses ending in the domain name “.edu,” the IRS and FTC warn. The emails, with IRS logos and subject lines like “Tax Refund Payment,” link to a website that asks for personal data such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers to facilitate the “refund.”