Recently a few PRM clients have been the target of some very brash and sinister scam artists posing as IRS affiliates. In over 40 years as a CPA it is easy for me to recognize an IRS scam, but the sophistication of the latest scams is alarming.

Tax-related fraud plays on your natural inclination to avoid trouble with official agencies. A practiced con artist armed with a script and the element of surprise can often create understandable confusion and fear, but it is important to consider these points:

Tip-offs to an IRS scam:

An unexpected phone call. The IRS makes initial contact regarding tax issues in a written letter, sent to you via U.S. postal mail.

The threat of arrest. Warnings of arrest or other police action are designed to frighten you into agreeing to send money or disclose personal financial information such as your social security number. Local police departments will not threaten to arrest you for federal tax- related issues.

Request for immediate payment. If you actually owe money for any type of federal tax, payment options are available. You’ll receive notices in the mail detailing the amount due and you’ll have time to respond.

Payment via prepaid debit card. The IRS does not require you to purchase prepaid cards to pay any tax you may owe, and will not call to ask for personal identification numbers.

It is important to know that the IRS is aware and concerned about the many varieties of tax fraud and therefore operates in a predictable manner.  It is essential to consider the following points when in contact with the IRS:

• The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail or social media to request financial information. The IRS never asks taxpayers for detailed personal financial information.  So if you receive what looks like an official IRS e-mail, you should forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Do not reply to the sender, and do not open any attachments.

• The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov; don’t be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org, or anything else.

• If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS or directing you to an IRS site, do not reply to the message, open any attachments, or click on any links.

• To help the IRS fight identity theft and refund fraud, report any bogus correspondence and forward any suspicious e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

How can you protect yourself?

• Advance warning gives you an advantage. Being aware of tax fraud schemes makes it likely you’ll recognize common techniques used by fraudsters, such as threats, multiple calls, and repeated demands for an immediate decision.

• If you choose to contact the IRS directly concerning the call, do not use the phone number the caller gave you. Why? In this latest scam, the number provided will connect you with another con artist in the same organization.

• Be assertive. You have no obligation to answer your phone, engage in conversation, or provide information to anyone who calls you. Let contacts from unknown numbers go to voicemail. If you do answer and the caller’s requests make you uncomfortable, disconnecting immediately is neither rude nor impolite.

PRM is here to keep you safe and informed, our Partners and staff are available to assist you any time you are contacted about your tax information.