Ocean County Press Release
With the filing deadline for income taxes quickly approaching, IRS scammers are taking full advantage of tax season calling unsuspecting taxpayers and attempting to dupe them.
"These scammers are becoming increasingly skillful and brazen in attempting to defraud the public," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. "Our Consumer Affairs department is working to inform our residents to be aware of potential scam artists posing as IRS agents."
According to the IRS, an aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
"I can adamantly tell you these calls are scams because the IRS does not solicit information by telephone," Vicari said. "If the IRS needs information from you they will first write a letter."
Victims are often told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an "urgent" callback request.
Vicari said the IRS will never:
• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
• Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
• Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
"Scammers change tactics from year to year and there are variations of this scam that run year-round," Vicari said. "Phishing is another form of an IRS scam."
Phishing, which are emails that look like they are from the IRS, has seen a surge this year. Scammers email a potential victim trying to trick them into giving them their personal and financial information.
"If you receive one of these emails do not respond or click the link in them," Vicari warned.
Following are some tips on how to avoid being scammed:
• Shred, Shred, Shred - Be sure to shred all documents containing personal information, such as your Social Security number, home address, and birth date. Spend a little extra and get a cross-cut shredder.
• File income taxes early and file electronically – If you beat the scammer by filing early, they can't file on your behalf. Filing electronically can help keep your financial information secure by making sure a paper document with your Social Security number, address, salary and bank account information does not get diverted through the mail.
• Protect your computer – If preparing and filing a return on your own make sure you use security software that updates automatically. Essential tools include a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption for sensitive date.
Vicari also recommends checking your credit report at least annually and your bank and credit card statements often.
Vicari noted that unfortunately personal account information is often lost and stolen and it's best to keep close track of all of your accounts for possible fraud.
"You are entitled to a free credit report from the three major credit reporting companies annually," Vicari said. "Keeping track of your credit rating might help stop any attempt at stealing your identity."
For additional information contact the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs at (732) 929-2105.