Many people know that a telephone call from an individual claiming to be a bank or credit card company representative and asking for personal information about you is a scam.  Recently, the scammers have decided to use a more formidable agency – the IRS – to perpetrate their scams on unsuspecting individuals.

Regardless of your age, if you get a telephone call from someone telling you they represent the IRS, it’s common to want to comply.  It can be pretty intimidating to think you’re speaking with a federal agent.  Unfortunately, the scammers tend to target people who are elderly, alone, or, for whatever reason, may be even more susceptible.  Recently, an unsuspecting client of TLF received a phone call from a man claiming to be an IRS agent.  The “agent” told our client that the IRS was investigating him for criminal tax fraud.  When our client, knowing he had done nothing wrong, protested that the IRS must be looking for someone else with the same name, the “agent” said he needed our client’s Social Security number to confirm whether he was the individual they were looking for.   The client provided the last 4 digits of his Social Security number before his daughter intervened and stopped the call.

According to the IRS website (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Warns-of-Pervasive-Telephone-Scam), our client is not alone.  If you or a loved one receives a suspicious call, ask for the callers name and contact information and his or her supervisor’s name and contact information, then call the IRS (or the bank or the company they claim to represent) for verification BFEORE you give out ANY information.  If the scammer gets your Social Security number (or even the last 4 digits) you should still report the scam, but it will be incumbent upon you to take action to protect yourself from harm (which, in some cases, may include closing or changing bank accounts, credit cards and anything linked to your Social Security number).

It’s important to know that the IRS does not call or contact you asking for personal information.  Don’t fall for scammers who call and insist you must give them your personal information because you are going to receive a tax refund or because you owe money and are risking arrest if you do not pay or comply immediately.  Even the IRS website confirms these common scams and lists ways to protect yourself and your personal and financial information.

Below are helpful resources as well as several other tips to follow.

  1. Report any suspicious call involving an IRS “agent” to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at:
    1. 1-800-366-4484 or online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting:http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
  2. In Texas report the call to the Attorney General https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/senior-texans-page; in other states go the respective state’s AG website for contact information;
  3. Alert your financial institutions of any suspicious calls, and follow their advice.You may want to freeze the accounts or create new accounts.Clark Howard’s website also has info on this process here: http://www.clarkhoward.com/news/clark-howard/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/nFbL/
  4. ALWAYS check your bank and credit card statements carefully.
  5. Alert all 3 credit bureaus.
  6. If information is compromised, check all 3 credit bureaus for your credit score.If someone has your information, you may find critical information in your credit reports, such as credit cards of which you are unaware