Fending off tax scammers is often easy, according to experts. Swindlers impersonating IRS agents typically phone victims, tell the taxpayer that he or she owes the IRS and threaten legal action unless payment is made immediately.
Neil Becourtney, an Eatontown, New Jersey-based CPA with New York accounting firm CohnReznick, says clients have contacted him after calls from scammers impersonating IRS agents.
"They say you have a balance and if it's not paid we're going to lock you up," Becourtney said. "They ask for gift cards, debit cards or money orders.
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"They'll sometimes ask for your bank information so they can transfer funds out of your bank account."
Scammers may trick caller ID to show a call as coming from IRS, offer badge numbers and otherwise convincingly portray IRS agents. However, no matter how persuasive the message, if it comes by phone it's a scammer, according to the IRS.
"Our normal correspondence is a letter in the mail," said IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino. "It's not a random threatening phone call." Nor, according to a July 2017 IRS scam alert, will agents contact taxpayers by email, text message, fax, social media or a knock on the door, all of which have been used by scammers to set up their victims.