Beware Internet Scammers Claiming to be the IRS
We at Taxes for Expats have been receiving numerous calls from clients asking about the legitimacy of emails and other communications they’ve received from senders claiming to be from the IRS. These emails are requesting private, personal information such as Social Security Numbers, birthdates, and financial account details.
Because these viral attacks seem to happening in high volumes, we wanted to inform all our readers on IRS contact initiation procedures and what you should do if you receive one of these emails or if you have already incurred a loss by responding to one or more of these messages.
Procedures of the IRS and Other Government Institutions
The IRS will NEVER initiate contact with taxpayers by means of ANY electronic communication. That includes text messages, contact through social media, and emails. Faxes are also extremely unordinary. The IRS generally contacts taxpayers by mail and sometimes by phone.
If you received unsolicited electronic communication from somebody claiming to be an IRS representative DO NOT reply and DO NOT click on any links or open any attachments, as they could contain harmful viruses or phishing software. It is also recommended to perform due diligence if you receive a letter or a phone call – especially if it seems suspicious. Below is a list of actions you should take for each scenario.
If You Have Already Clicked on a Link and Provided Personal Details
If you’ve only provided details to one of these senders via text, email, phone, or by means of any other communication and you haven’t yet incurred financial loss, visit the IRS’s Identity Protection Page as soon as possible.
If you unwittingly gave out your personal information and have already suffered monetary loss, you are encouraged to also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant to file an official complaint.
If Your Personal Information is Being Requested in an Email
Forward the message right away to email@example.com. It’s vital that you forward the message as is directly from your email rather than save as a document and attach to an email or print the email and send a scanned version. This is because the original email contains information from the sender that is extremely valuable to investigators. Once forwarded, delete the email from your inbox to remove any potential of malicious links being opened.
If Your Personal Information is Being Requested in a Text
Forward the entire text as it was received on your phone to the IRS at 202-552-1226. If the number from the sender displayed on your phone, send a second text to the same number indicating the originating number. Once these actions are complete, delete the original text from your handheld device.
If You Receive a Phone Call From an Individual Claiming to be With the IRS
Ask for a name, an employee badge number, the reason for their call, and a call back number right away. If these details are given to you…Let them know respectfully that you want to verify their legitimacy, be sure to refrain from answering any of their questions, and don’t allow any persuasive techniques to convince you otherwise. Contact the IRS with a number obtained from the official How to Contact the IRS webpage. Once you’ve contacted the IRS, you will need to verify the information that has been given to you by making sure the name and badge number given to you and the issue for which he/she was calling is valid. If the information is verified, you can feel free to call back at the number and extension (if any) provided to you by the original caller.
If You Receive a Letter From a Sender Claiming to be With the IRS
Do not call the number provided on the letter. Again, refer to the Contact the IRS page to find an applicable number to verify the legitimacy of the letter you received. If it is valid and it requires a reply from you, make sure to reply in a timely manner.
For both aforementioned scenarios: If the information on a phone call or letter cannot be verified at a listed IRS number, you are encouraged to contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The direct number to the Inspector General is (800) 336-4484.
If You as a Stateside Citizen Receive a Fax or Email Regarding the Purchase of Stock
Forward the email (or scan and send the fax) to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Stock’ in the subject line and file a complaint with the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission).
If you reacted already by replying to an email or fax with your personal information, visit the IRS Identity Protection page listed in the 3rd section from the beginning of this article. If monetary loss has occurred as a result of your sharing personal details you may file a complaint with the FTC, the link to which is also in the same section.
If You as an American Expat Receive a Fax or Email Regarding the Purchase of Stock
Your first steps will be the same as stateside citizens: You will file a complaint with the SEC and forward the email or scanned fax to email@example.com. You should also file a complaint with your securities regulator as soon as possible.
Also like stateside citizens, if you haven’t incurred financial loss but you did provide your personal information to the fraudulent sender, visit the IRS Identity Protection page. If you have experienced loss as a result, you will need to file a cross-border consumer complaint at econsumer.gov rather than the FTC.
If You Receive Form via Fax with a Request to Fill Out and Return
Once more, contact the IRS and be willing to send a scanned copy of the fax to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘FAX’ in the subject line.