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Watch Out for Gift Card Scams

As we move into the holiday season, scammers are finalizing their plans to swindle taxpayers out of their money. The details vary, but the intent is the same: trick people in order to steal their personal information, scam them out of money, or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes.

One of the choice tactics is to use a gift card scam.

The IRS says it’s gotten numerous reports of taxpayers asked to pay a fake tax bill using a gift card. Here’s how one of these scenarios typically play out:

  • Someone posing as an IRS agent calls the taxpayer and informs them their identity has been stolen.
  • The fake agent says the taxpayer’s identify was used to open fake bank accounts.
  • The caller tells the taxpayer to buy gift cards from various stores and await further instructions.
  • The scammer then contacts the taxpayer again, telling them to provide the gift cards’ access numbers.

How can you tell that the caller is not the IRS? It’s important to know what the real IRS won’t do. The IRS does not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they owe. All taxpayers should be aware of their rights.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement agencies to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Revoke the taxpayer’s driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status.

Taxpayers who believe they’ve been contacted by a scammer have a number of options to report it. Phone scams can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page, or call 800-366-4484.

Phone scams can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, using the FTC’s Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Remember to add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes section of the form.

Taxpayers who get an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, can report it to the IRS by forwarding the questionable message to the IRS’ email address phishing@irs.gov. Add “IRS Phone Scam” to the subject line.

For more information, check out these IRS resources on IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting;
Consumer Alerts; Report Phishing and Phone Scams.

SourceIRS Tax Tip 2019-167

Bob Williams

Forget genes; I’ve got words in my DNA. Communication has been part of who I am nearly all my life. From a long career in radio news to another one in newspapers – and a University of Georgia journalism degree sandwiched between the two – language has been my life. I’ve also been fortunate to have learned the tax business from the ground up here at Drake, starting with 1040.com online forms some years ago before moving on to work on the Web. In all things tax-ish, we aim to give you tools you can use.

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