Ask The Edd Lawyer ‐ Protecting Yourself From The Latest Scam Call
By Robert S. Schriebman
On March 14, 2018 the IRS issued Tax Tip 2018-38 warning the public of the latest scam calls and phony emails from IRS impersonators. As if by fate a client called after being contacted by a scammer. Being a smart fellow, my client recorded the call and played it back to me. I thought you would like to know the very latest.
The Scam Call
The call was a Robo Call. The male voice identified himself as “IRS Criminal Agent, Phillips.” He stated that the tax return (no year specified) filed contained fraudulent information and that criminal fines and penalties are being charge to your IRS account. He further stated the matter will be turned over to local law enforcement which may lead to an arrest and criminal prosecution unless the fines are paid immediately. He then left a phone number with area code 202. The entire call was prerecorded so there was no way one could speak directly to Phillips.
These calls aim at the uninformed, the elderly, and people who use English as a second language. Gullible recipients of these calls may call the number left by the caller and disclose confidential financial information including their Social Security number and other information so that the crooks can electronically drain their bank account.
The latest warning from the IRS may help you avoid being suckered by these con artists. Before discussing the latest IRS Tax Tip I would like to give you my personal insights into the message left by “Phony Phillips.”
Bob’s Personal Observations
The first thing that struck me odd from the recorded message was the fact that the caller’s title was improper. A true IRS call would never be from its criminal division. IRS criminal investigators are known as Special Agents. They don’t call, they just show up. Telephone calls from IRS audit agents are extremely rare and are made only after repeated attempts to reach the taxpayer by mail. On the other hand, IRS collectors, known as “Revenue Officers” are more likely to call in an attempt to set up an appointment for a face-to-face conference. So, when Phony Phillips identified himself as an IRS criminal agent, I knew the call was phony from the get go.
IRS personnel who call will always give you their employee identification number that usually starts out, “000.” Phony Phillips never gave his ID number.
The IRS will never threaten to use local and non-federal law enforcement. IRS Special Agents are considered a police force unto themselves. If they need help, they will call the U S Marshall.
Now let’s look at the latest IRS Tax Tip
IRS TAX Tip 2018-38
The IRS warns that the most common scams are either over the phone or by email. Know this – the IRS rarely if ever uses email to communicate with taxpayers. The IRS also admonishes the reader to go with his or her gut. That is to say if you do not believe you owe any taxes, don’t fall for the scam. The IRS never threatens to use local law enforcement and they do not collect taxes by filing lawsuits. (The IRS may file a lawsuit in federal court to reduce a tax lien to judgment so that the judgment can be recorded and enforced under state law. This too is a rare event.)
Under various versions of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, you always have the right to meet and confer with an advisor before you meet with the IRS. A crook like Phony Phillips, will tell you that you must pay immediately. He may even encourage you to pay with a prepaid debit card.
The IRS will never call demanding payment without first sending a series of collection letters. Usually there are four such letters with the last two sent by certified mail. The last letter in the series informs the taxpayer of the right to a Collection Due Process hearing with a Settlement Officer. This hearing allows you to challenge the tax debt or arrange payment either by an installment agreement or Offer in Compromise without the fear of enforced collection action. Ever since the late 1990s the IRS has gone to great lengths to communicate with tax debtors and give them an opportunity to resolve the debt without any threat whatsoever of criminal action. Yes, the IRS does have laws allowing criminal prosecution of tax debtors but the use of that law is almost as rare as my winning at Powerball.
What To Do If You Are Contacted By Scammers By Phone
The first thing to remember is to not respond to the caller in any way.
Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s, “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.
What To Do If You Are Contacted By Scammers By Email
IRS Tax Tip 2018-38 also gives advice on handling phony emails. The best advice has always been not to open or reply any email that is suspicious or the sender is unfamiliar to you. Never give out personal or financial information even if you think you know the sender. Do not open any attachments and do not click on any unfamiliar links.
Forward the email to [email protected]. Then delete it.
These scammers are smart and they keep inventing new tricks. I have a great deal of respect for the IRS’ diligence and its continued effort to keep the public informed. As the IRS continues to publish warnings and instructions, I will pass them on to you. In my long career representing taxpayers, and keeping you informed, I have learned that there are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and tax scammers.
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.
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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