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Family Employers: Make Staff Aware Of Common Tax Scams

The Internal Revenue Service recently warned Americans that, even though the tax filing season is over, criminals are still running tax-related scams.

One such scam is the EFTPS scam. A criminal con artist claims to be with the IRS, calls the targeted victim, and demands immediate tax payment, saying the two certified letters mailed to the taxpayer were returned as undeliverable. The scammer threatens the victim with arrest if payment is not made immediately by a specific prepaid debit card. The scammer claims the debit card is tied to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), but that is a lie because the payment system is, in fact, controlled by the criminal.

Another scam to watch for is a "Robo-call" message scam. Criminals leave an automated, urgent message telling targeted victims to call back or face arrest. Scammers tell those who do call back to make an immediate payment.

The IRS warns taxpayers that it does not leave such messages. And, although it does use certain private-sector collection agencies, it only uses them after it has made direct contact with the taxpayer about a long-standing debt.  

Finally, several phone and phishing email scams target people with limited English proficiency. Scammers often threaten victims in their native language and demand a payment. "IRS Cautions Taxpayers to Watch for Summertime Scams," www.irs.gov (Jun. 26, 2017).


Commentary and Checklist

Train staff to never give family information over the phone or via email, including locations or the whereabouts of family members. Even what seems like the least important fact revealed could give a criminal an edge.

As for the IRS and other financial scams, the IRS will primarily use regular mail to contact taxpayers, so always be leery of emails or phone calls claiming to be from the IRS. Generally, the IRS will only call or make an in-person visit, after sending several written notices to those who have an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return, or a delinquent employment tax payment, or who are being audited or who are under criminal investigation.

If you know that you do not owe taxes and receive a call demanding a tax payment, hang up immediately. Report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800.366.4484, and the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.

If you do owe taxes, you should not respond to “robo-calls.” Instead, call the number listed on your billing notice received in the mail, or call the IRS directly at 800.829.1040.

The IRS and its authorized collection agencies will never do any of the following:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
  • Demand checks payable to third parties instead of to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Threaten to immediately have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
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