Don’t Let These Common IRS And Social Security Scams Happen To You
Published 10-18-2019, by Gregory Kushner
It seems like almost every day I receive an unsolicited phone call or email where someone is trying to obtain personal information or sell me on lowering my interest on a credit card or mortgage. Sometimes these are businesses simply trying to drum up business, but unfortunately, many times there is fraudulent intent behind these calls or emails.
There is one particular scam that plays into the average person’s fear of the Internal Revenue Service. For the most part, this fear is irrational as most people pay their taxes on time and have little or nothing to hide or worry about. Regardless, if the IRS purportedly calls saying back taxes are owed, the average individual goes into “meltdown” mode and likely does not even hear what the person on the other end is saying other than the IRS wants their money. Sometimes, scammers use an even more sinister approach, claiming that they are from the Criminal Enforcement Division of the IRS. What is the only thing most people fear more than the IRS? The Criminal Division of the IRS. Talk about playing to someone’s deepest fears.
As mentioned, most people pay their taxes and if there was a shortfall somewhere along the line, generally the IRS doesn’t want to put people in jail — they just want their money (along with interest and potential penalties). As a former CPA, I know that the IRS never calls the taxpayer to let them know about a potential problem. They will always send a letter indicating that additional taxes are or may be owed. Of course, if the taxpayer ignores multiple legitimate attempts on behalf of the IRS, then the IRS collections people may call. That is at the end of the process, however, not the beginning. Don’t let your natural fears cause you to let your guard down and give out your social security number — or worse, your money or even gift cards — to someone pretending to be from the IRS.
Another fast-growing fraud involves scammers posing as Social Security Administration (“SSA”) officials. Part of the reason this scam has been so successful is that the number displayed across the caller ID is the Social Security Administration’s actual phone number. However, it’s not really the Social Security Administration calling — the scammer has “spoofed” the caller ID. This happened to my wife recently when the caller ID indicated it was the Social Security Administration calling. Fortunately, she figured out it probably was a scam, hung up and called the Social Security Administration to find what she already suspected — the call was a fraud. So, if someone calls you saying that your Social Security number has been compromised in any way, be extremely wary. The caller might indicate that someone tried to steal your Social Security number or that it was somehow used in some type of criminal activity and that you need to provide your Social Security number to make sure the number remains valid.
Once they have you frightened, a potential scammer might tell you your bank or investment accounts are also about to be seized. They might say something like you need to confirm your brokerage or bank account numbers. They might also tell you to purchase gift cards and give them the codes, which is like handing them your money. According to the SSA, as of the end of December 2018, more than 35,000 people reported the scam and lost around $10 million. If you do get one of these fraudulent calls, report it to the FTC.