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ASK THE CALIFORNIA EMPLOYMENT TAX AND PAYROLL TAX ATTORNEY – PHONE SCAMMERS HIT A NEW LOW – PRETEND TO BE FROM IRS TAXPAYER ADVOCATE’S OFFICE

By Robert S. Schriebman

2019

Introduction

The IRS has issued a warning to the American public to be weary of phony phone scammers pretending to be employees of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate’s Office (TAO). The Taxpayer Advocate is an independent functioning public service that helps taxpayers solve problems with the IRS that are unusual and atypical. The Advocate works for you and is not a puppet of the IRS.

In IR-2019-44 (March 18, 2019) the IRS warns the public of a whole new scam where crooks contact the public claiming to be employees of the TAO. So far the scammers are pretending to be TAO representatives of the Brooklyn and Houston Advocate offices. These Advocate Offices are only the beginning as this scam will spread nationwide. The calls are usually "robocalls" that request a call-back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the crooks request personal information including Social Security numbers and individual taxpayer identification numbers. Their goal is to steal not only your hard earned money but your tax refund too.

The phony calls seem real enough. Scammers use fake names and made-up IRS badge numbers. There is background noise of a busy government office with phones ringing and people pretending to call other taxpayers. It appears very real indeed.

These people are sophisticated, and even have the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number. They threaten to revoke driver licenses and other professional licenses. They operate on a buddy-system. That is to say, the first scammer calls with the threats, and the second scammer calls back pretending to be from the police or DMV, in order to obtain personal information.

According to IR-2019-44, "Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling." The scammers also send phony emails that look very official. This is a dead giveaway, as the IRS has not yet elected emails for taxpayer communication.

In addition to obtaining personal ID information, they also demand immediate payment of alleged back taxes by demanding payment through a prepaid debit card or wire transfers. They are experts at being aggressive and are often hostile and abusive. Frightened victims pay up promptly.

It has gotten to the point where it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In order to protect yourself here are some helpful hints:

  • The IRS will never call you cold to demand immediate payment. It is true that IRS Revenue Officers can be demanding and aggressive over the phone. However, my experience has been that the IRS will send a series of written demand letters before calling. They will usually not call unless and until they have had a history of dealing with a particular taxpayer.
  • There are avenues of appeal before you have to pay the IRS. The main avenue is to take advantage of the Collection Due Process (CDP) system that has been around since the late 1990s.
  • The IRS does not communicate by email.
  • The IRS does not demand wire transfers, credit or debit card payments over the phone.
  • The IRS will never threaten you to involve local law enforcement.
  • The IRS will never call you regarding a refund that you do not feel entitled to.
  • The IRS TAO will never call you cold about your account.

The best advice I can give with regard to scammers is to go with your gut. If you smell a rat – it’s a rat. Before you pay anything go to the IRS website (IRS.GOV) and look up your account online. You can also call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 and ask for help. You can also call the Treasury Department Inspector General Office to file a complaint at 1.800.366.4484.

Conclusion

In the early days of scamming, the callers were not sophisticated. Many had accents, and used the names of dead Presidents, such as Jefferson and Madison. There were no badge numbers or call-back numbers that looked like the calls were coming from Washington, D.C. Now things are more sophisticated. The phone numbers look real and the badge numbers seem official. There is also office background noise. Now the crooks may know the last four digits of your Social Security number. I invite you to call me if you have any doubts about the true identity of the caller. We know a scam when we hear it!

***

Robert Schriebman has a successful practice in the Rolling Hills Estates area of Los Angeles County serving clients throughout California and the United States. He has successfully dedicated more than 40 years to helping individual taxpayers, business owners, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and tax attorneys navigate the complicated tax systems of the federal and state governments. Mr. Schriebman is in private practice. He is not affiliated in any way with the EDD and he is not employed by the EDD or any other agency of the State of California.

Robert Schriebman has written the only 2 books ever published dealing with how California Employment Development Department (EDD) operates. See "California Tax Collection Practice and Procedures" and "California Taxation Practice and Procedure," both published by Commerce Clearing House.

Robert Schriebman has written over 20 books including the major manual used nationally by practitioners and the IRS, "IRS Tax Collection Procedures – A Manual for Practitioners" published by Commerce Clearing House.

Robert Schriebman has written over 20 books including the major manual used nationally by practitioners and the IRS, "IRS Tax Collection Procedures – A Manual for Practitioners" published by Commerce Clearing House in addition to the only 2 books ever published dealing with how California Employment Development Department (EDD) operates. See "California Tax Collection Practice and Procedures" and "California Taxation Practice and Procedure," both published by Commerce Clearing House.

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