It may be the tail end of the summer season, but that doesn’t mean tax scammers are taking a vacation. Even though the traditional tax season is still several months away, tax fraud schemes are in full swing. In one of their most recent Tax Tips, the IRS warned again of the increasingly sophisticated efforts of those posing as IRS representatives attempting to steal money or personal information from unwitting taxpayers. 

Fear is the motivation that tax scammers leverage most often. A common tactic is to pose as an IRS agent on the phone and aggressively threaten taxpayers with arrest, deportation or revocation of a driver’s license if payments are not made. The callers attempt to get the unwitting taxpayer to make “overdue payments” over the phone. As time goes on, these attempts have become more sophisticated to include the fake agents using personal information about you that they’ve gleaned from online searches to appear more legitimate. Their own phone numbers have been modified to appear on caller ID as government extensions. 

Emails and regular mail are both used in an attempt to solicit bogus tax payments. Scammers regularly copy IRS letterhead for use in their communications. They also encourage their potential victims to mail copies of their payment receipts to an actual IRS address after they’ve made a “payment” to a bogus web address set up by the scammers. 

Getting a rude, aggressive phone call demanding tax payments or else can be unnerving. Although there are other federal agencies with more warm fuzzies than the IRS, agents will never demand immediate payment. They’ll never call you to discuss tax payments if you haven’t first received a ta bill by mail. They’ll never specify that you have to pay a tax bill by prepaid debit card or process any tax payments by phone. Lastly, the IRS does not use other agencies to enforce tax collection, such as the police.

Education is the most important defense again these types of schemes. Knowing what real IRS representatives do and don’t do can help protect your hard-earned money from fraudsters and help you to avoid becoming one of the nearly 4,000 victims who have lost over $20 million to tax scams since 2013.