By: Tom Andrews, CPA The Internal Revenue Service has received almost 90,000 complaints from tax payers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. This can be especially troublesome to yacht crewmembers most of whom travel frequently. Many crewmembers are away from home for extended periods of time. This sometimes leaves doubt as to whether or not they may have lapsed in filing a tax return or making an estimated tax payment. I have had several clients and their families receive these calls and luckily none of them have handed over confidential information. During a recent encounter we had a client living in England receive a phone call from a gentleman claiming to be from the IRS, since she has been out of the United States for an extended period of time she was led to believe that she had missed some important tax filing deadlines. Upon calling our office we were able to reassure her that the phone call she received was a phone scam, later confirmed upon calling the IRS. IRS commissioner John Koskinen has stated “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate tax payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact the IRS.” Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:
- Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
- Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations.
- Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
This warning should also extend to the families of yacht crew as well. Many of the victims have been elderly parents and grandparents that are bullied over the phone and sometimes the fraudster will tell the victim that the police will be dispatched to their residence unless they resolve the issue immediately with a credit card. One of our clients recently informed us that their elderly mother had been scammed out of almost $2,000. The scammers informed her that the police would be at her home within minutes she was so frazzled and caught off guard she provided them her credit card details in hopes to avoid arrest. If you do get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS you should contact the IRS immediately at 800.829.1040 or contact your accountant.