BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Scammers seem to be getting more creative in using fear of the Taxman as a weapon to steal from taxpayers.
The mere mention of the Internal Revenue Service is enough to evoke fear in many Americans, so using the IRS as a ruse to steal someone’s hard earned money can be effective. For years, the scammers have been using the phone, now authorities say they are taking it to the next level.
For years the IRS scam has been so simple yet effective–imposters making threatening phone calls, telling consumers they owe federal taxes, and if they don’t pay up immediately, they will be sued or go to jail.
Authorities have warned Americans the IRS does not make threatening phone calls, yet taxpayers have lost an estimated $26 million to these scams as of January, 2016.
Now there are reports of a new IRS scam that is harder to figure out: consumers receiving a notice that because of the complexities tied to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, they underpaid their federal income tax.
“A lot of people might not be familiar with this because of the Affordable Care Act–did you have to report that kind of income? You have to report, if you have health insurance or not. So it is a very confusing time for a lot of people.”
Melanie McGovern, spokesperson for the Upstate New York Better Business Bureau, said taxpayers are receiving the bogus notices as emails, with an actual copy of the IRS form CP 2000 in an attachment.
McGovern said it is a level of sophistication the BBB has not seen from IRS scammers, “Where they are going to these great lengths to make it look like it is legitimate when we know that the IRS never initiates contact via email.”
The first clue the notification is a scam, said McGovern, is that the IRS does not make initial contact with taxpayers by email, the initial notice is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Red flag #2, according to the Better Business Bureau is, they ask you to make your check payable to the “I.R.S.”
Actual payments to the government are written to the U.S Treasury Department., and the bogus collection site in the scam, is a post office box in Austin, Texas.
McGovern points out, the IRS has regional payment processing hubs, “so if you are in Buffalo and they are asking you to send a payment to Austin, that is a red flag because that is not the payment processing center for this area.”
In the past, a sure way of finding out directly if you owe the back taxes, has been calling taxpayer assistance, but after massive cutbacks and layoffs at the IRS, you could be on hold for more than an hour.
So, if you really do owe the IRS for underpaid federal taxes, the surest way of getting to the truth might be to just wait until the tax collection agency send you the bill in the mail.