The IRS v.s. Identity Theft and Scams

By Bob Casmer

By now almost everyone has either experienced for themselves, or heard stories about someone they know being the target of an identity theft or scam.  It is no surprise that as technology has evolved over the past several decades and our reliance upon computers and the internet to handle all phases of our financial activity has increased, so to have the criminals upped their game to try and obtain information about us and gain access to our bank and credit cards accounts.

One particular technique used by criminals to obtain such information is through the guise of them being with the IRS. Those three small letters can strike fear into the hearts of many people, which is exactly what these criminals are counting on.   These scammers will often try contacting people via the phone or through the internet, claiming to be with the IRS. They further claim the person they are contacting is seriously in trouble with the IRS, owes significant back taxes and penalties, and needs to do something immediately or they could be subject to liens, more fines, and even imprisonment.  

These scammers are counting on these people being so worried that they don’t question the validity of the request and willingly hand over their personal information.

First of all, the IRS will never just call you on the phone with no prior contact.  The chief way the IRS initiates any review or contact with someone is via mail.  Likewise, they will not contact you via email.  In fact, the IRS is extremely averse to sending and receiving any information or records/documents via email and normally will not accept anything emailed to them.  They always ask that you fax or mail hard copies of documents to them. Receiving an email asking that you click on attached links or respond back to them with personal information is usually a dead giveaway that you are being subjected to some form of identity theft or scam.  In such instances, do not ever click on or open any links, nor email or send back any personal information in response to such requests.

If you get a phone call from a supposed IRS representative with no prior correspondence from them, it is likely a scam.  Do not give out any information over the phone, and be sure to ask the supposed agent for their name and IRS badge number.  A real IRS agent is required to give you that information anytime they talk with a taxpayer.  You can also ask for a call-back number and see how they respond.  If you have any doubts or suspicions, don’t give out personal or banking information.

It is very easy to contact the IRS yourself through their website at IRS.gov or by phone, to check and find out if the phone call or email, or even a suspicious letter you got, was actually legitimate.  You can also contact us at 216.524.8900 and let us know what you received.  We can help you quickly discern if you were the target of an identity theft scam.