7 On Your Side: How to avoid IRS tax refund scams


    While taxpayers are looking forward to possible refunds, scammers are looking to take their money. Many are targeting their victims over the phone.

    According to the IRS, since October 2013, phone scams involving IRS impersonation have cost victims more than $72 million. Here’s what you need to know, so you don’t fall for this:

    IRS spokesman Anthony Burke says some scammers target the elderly, and people who recently immigrated to the U.S. Often, con artists will claim their victims owe taxes and must pay immediately to avoid being charged criminally.

    “They’re very threatening when they come on the phone,” Burke said. He also points out that the IRS doesn’t usually contact people by phone.

    “If somebody calls you out of the blue, it probably isn’t the IRS. Our first method of contact is through the U.S. Mail,” Burke said.

    He says another warning sign includes demanding to be paid via debit card, gift card or wire transfer.

    The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which helps investigate these scams, points out that scammers are now demanding payments on iTunes, Google Play and other reloadable gift cards.

    What should someone do if they get one of these calls?

    “The best thing to do if you get one of these calls is to hang up,” Burke said.

    If you or someone you know fell for this scam, file a complaint here.

    If you owe federal taxes and want help with payment questions, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

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