We’re less than a month away from April 15 – have you filed your taxes? Whether you’re way ahead of schedule or scrambling last minute to get your paperwork together, be on the lookout for a number of scams that are targeting people who are hard of hearing.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued warnings of video relay scams targeting people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as scams through email. Read on to learn more about these scams.
Video Relay Service Scam
Video relay service (VRS) is a communication system that assists people who are deaf and hard of hearing with phone calls. VRS interpreters interpret phone calls visually for people who use American Sign Language – but unfortunately, interpreters do not vet phone calls for scams. They solely interpret the person on the other end of the phone call.
The IRS has warned of a scam that utilizes VRS to target deaf and hard of hearing people These con artists try to steal taxpayers’ identities and personal and financial information. The IRS warns, “Do not automatically trust calls just because they are made through VRS. VRS interpreters do not screen calls for validity.”
Instead, pay attention to what’s being asked of you. From their website, the IRS tells us that they will never:
• Demand immediate payment and require the payment be made a specific way, such as by prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. In most cases, the IRS will not call taxpayers about taxes owed without first having mailed a letter to the taxpayer.
• Threaten that local police or other law-enforcement groups will immediately arrest taxpayers for not paying a tax bill.
• Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without giving them the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If the person on the other end of VRS asks for any of the above, report them immediately. To learn more about the latest tax phone scams, go to IRS.gov and type “scam” in the search field. IRS YouTube videos are available on a variety of topics in American Sign Language (ASL) with open-captions and voice over. Taxpayers may also file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant. If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Other Telephone Scams
You may receive a phone call from someone who claims to be from the IRS, demanding payment or information. The first rule of thumb to remember is that the IRS does not ask for this information over the phone. Also, you should have received a letter – hard copy, in your physical mailbox – from the IRS if they want information. Any phone call from anyone requesting information or threatening you with legal action should be regarded as a scam.
The IRS provides us with some information on suspicious phone calls:
• Deaf and hard of hearing taxpayers who owe taxes or think they might owe taxes should call the IRS at 800-829-1040 through VRS. IRS employees can help with a payment issue or confirm if there really is a tax issue.
• Taxpayers who know they don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that they owe any taxes (for example, they’ve never received an IRS letter or the caller made bogus threats or demands as described above), should call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, at 800-366-4484.
• Taxpayers can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant. If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Email Phishing Scams
Certain scams do not involve phone calls at all. Rather, you may get a convincing email in your inbox requesting information or payment. This is known as “phishing.”
If this has happened, keep in mind one very important fact about the IRS: “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Being able to recognize these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam can save you from becoming a victim.”
Email scams tend to be correspondence that request last-minute deposit changes for refunds or account updates. They may ask you to give up sensitive data such as your password, Social Security number, or bank account and credit card numbers.
Certain email scams will link you to a website that is set up to mirror the IRS website. Beware of these scams and pay attention to the URL address. For example, if the email provides a website link, check the link: USA.gov or IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”) means the email is not from the IRS. If you have received such emails, forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on IRS scams, visit their page here.