The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has received new reports from Mississippi taxpayers of being contacted by impersonators claiming to work for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or federal Treasury Department and told they owed money to the IRS.
Attorney General Jim Hood is reminding Mississippians to remain cautious of these and other tax-related phone scams as tax season approaches.
AG Hood said that the scammers will often call claiming to be an agent for the IRS or the federal Treasury and tell the victim something similar to, “This is your official final notice—the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.”
The caller claims the consumer owes money to the IRS and insists that it be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.
If the victim refuses to cooperate, the scammer will sometimes threaten the victim by stating that he or she will be arrested or that a lawsuit will be filed against them.
Hood said another version of the scam deceives consumers by telling them that they have a refund in an effort to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
He said that scammers may also use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers and they may even know a lot about their targets such as the last four digits of their Social Security number.
“These con artists are intimidating and sound convincing and can even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling,” said General Hood. “The number one thing to remember is that if the IRS needs to contact you, they’ll do it by postal mail first, and they will not threaten to arrest or sue you.”
General Hood’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following additional information and tips to avoid these types of scams:
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a pre-paid debit card, pre-loaded gift/credit card such as iTunes, or request that you wire a payment;
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone;
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying;
- Use email, text messages, or social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds.
Tips to prevent becoming a victim of this scam:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe the IRS any amount, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at tigta.gov.
- DO NOT answer the phone for a number you do not recognize or that shows up as your own.
- If you do answer, HANG UP the minute you realize it is a scam. Even answering simple questions in the affirmative or negative could be used to try to scam you.
- BE SUSPICIOUS of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
- NEVER wire or send money in any form to persons or organizations you do not know.
- ALWAYS protect your personally identifiable information. Giving out personal information could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.