Did you get a phone call warning that your Social Security number would be suspended because of an unpaid tax bill? Don't believe it.
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It's the latest twist on tax-related scams, with fraudsters attempting to scare people into returning robocall voicemails, the Internal Revenue Service warns. If the scammers make contact with a taxpayer, they typically ask for detailed personal information.
“Taxpayers should not give out sensitive information over the phone unless they are positive they know the caller is legitimate,” the IRS said in a statement. “When in doubt – hang up.”
The IRS notes it doesn't accept payment methods such as prepaid debit cards, iTunes gift cards or wire transfers – which are telltale signs of a scam. It will also not ask a person to make a payment to any entity (or individual) other than the U.S. Treasury.
A taxpayer will not be threatened with arrest or other police involvement by the tax agency, and it will always give a taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission said it received 3 million consumer complaints – including more than 1.4 million fraud reports. Overall, Americans reported losing $1.48 billion – an increase of nearly 40 percent when compared with 2017.
Amounts reported stolen tended to vary by age: When people age 70 and over lost money, the median value was $751, compared with a median of $400 for people in their 20s. The median was even higher for those at least 80 years old – a whopping $1,700.
Imposter scams – where the fraudster pretends to be someone the victims trust to convince them to send money -- are the most frequently reported.
As for the preferred methods of obtaining the money, $423 million was taken by wire transfer, the most common technique. The FTC, however, saw a 95 percent increase in payments with gift and other reloadable cards.
Taxpayers contacted by a potential scammer who may owe the IRS money can view their account information online or call the agency directly; the IRS doesn't contact taxpayers by phone. People who think they may be fraud victims may file a complaint with the FTC.