Shielding Yourself from Tax Season Scammers

On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army
On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army


"I'm calling you from the tax crime investigation unit of the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Treasury. The very second you receive this message we need you to return us a call."

And so began the journey for Alex Yildiz, a small business owner originally from Turkey, who was scammed out of $6,000. I've known 'Alex' for over 15 years, so I've changed his name to protect his privacy.

Anatomy of the "IRS" Scam

The scam begins with a threat to have Alex arrested unless he calls right away – a very compelling sense of urgency. It follows up with a local phone number to put him in touch with an "agent". The agent on the phone adds a touch of authority by saying their name with badge number 117086. Then Alex is read a statement that tells him how a 'CB503' notice has been issued on his name. If Alex didn't think this was bad enough, wait until he hears how he's going to jail and that the sheriff's office has a warrant for his arrest for a 'non-bailable' offense.

So far it sounds pretty bad for Alex. No option is really offered, so Alex asks what can be done. The agent just happens to have a supervisor who'd be glad to explain more. According to the supervisor, Alex is still behind on his 2011 taxes – taxes Alex knows, without a doubt, he paid. When Alex says he needs to call his accountant to check this, the supervisor reinforces the sense of urgency and how this has to get taken care of now before the sheriff's office shows up on his doorstep.

Alex can't afford to be out of business, and certainly is afraid of being arrested. Eventually, $6,000 is agreed upon to settle the false tax bill. Naturally, the money is wired in what will be the last time Alex ever sees his hard earned money.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. This scam makes the 'Dirty Dozen' list every year. For 2016 it will be no different. The IRS has set up a dedicated way to report this at Click on the big red button that says "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" at the top of the page. That's how you know this is serious business.

Ready to hear a short recording of actual telephone scams?  Click here. (You'll be glad you did)

So what can you do?

  • Get the 2016 Warriors Guide to Identity Security from HERE.
  • Follow these quick tips on how to become an Identity Security Warrior:
  • Don't fall for the sense of urgency. The IRS rarely, and I mean rarely, makes phone calls to taxpayers first. Instead, they send those nasty little white envelopes with the clear plastic window with your name inside through certified mail. Why? They want a signature to prove you received it.
  • The IRS also doesn't send the sheriff's office or police department to your house. No one goes to jail simply because they can't pay their taxes. (Evade them? Ask Al Capone.)
  • When in doubt – Google it. There's no such IRS form as 'CB503'.
  • Don't doubt yourself. Like Alex, if you know you paid your taxes, then call their bluff.
  • Recognize it's a scam when a 'federal' agency asks for your credit or debit card number over the phone.

Shields Up!

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