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Fake IRS scams cause real problems

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

With tax season around the corner, it’s important to know what’s real and fake in regards to communicating with the Internal Revenue Service.

Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS correspondence, according to the IRS.

A vital thing to know to help protect yourself from a scam is that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media. It’s only by special circumstances in which the IRS will call and is generally after an individual first receives several letters or notices from the IRS delivered by the United States Postal Service.

“The most common scam you get is a phone call from someone who says they work for the IRS, which is a red flag because the IRS rarely calls,” said Richard Tomaskovic, 19th Force Support Squadron core compliance expert for personal financial readiness. “They will say ‘you owe us back taxes, you need to hurry and pay’ followed by a threat of legal action or jail time.”

Threats like these are common scare tactics criminals use to trick victims into buying into their scams.

“They are always going to play off of your fear in these kind of scams,” Tomaskovic said. “Other scams might work off of your greed by saying you have a big tax return coming, but there is a processing fee in order to claim your tax return. There aren’t processing fees with the IRS.”

According to IRS.gov, scammers will usually instruct victims to pay right away and ask for personal banking information over the phone. The IRS will only accept payments to the United States Treasury and won’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. 

“The IRS doesn’t call anybody, they send letters. If you owe the IRS money they are going to send you a letter and tell you how many days you have to respond. There isn’t an immediate crisis if you are dealing with the IRS,” Tomaskovic said.

It’s also important to look out for email scams with embedded links trying to gather personal information, according to Tomaskovic.

“Everyone is prone to being a victim,” Tomaskovic said. “Protect personally identifiable information; if it sounds too good, or too bad, to be true it probably is.”

The Airman and Family Readiness Center has three accredited financial counselors on base with resources to help with a wide variety of financial matters. Tax season begins January 2018, with all normal returns being due April 15.

In recognition of service, U.S. military personnel are given a grace period regarding income tax filing and payment. If you are serving overseas during tax filing season, you are automatically granted a 2-month tax extension. If you serve in a combat zone or contingency operation area, you have additional options for tax extensions.

“If you feel like you may have already fallen victim, file a police report and call your bank or your credit card company,” Tomaskovic said. “You have fraud protection on your accounts for a reason; the sooner you report it the better.”  

For more information on how to better protect yourself or reporting a scam visit https://www.irs.gov/.