March 10, 2021
“Hi, this is Jane Doe from Important Government Agency. We’re calling because you are going to be arrested if you don’t pay this bill. Can you confirm your account information?”
Does this sound familiar? It’s a common tactic used by fraudsters to gain personal information from unsuspecting Hoosiers. They often also ask for immediate payment to “resolve your issue” or try to get important personal information such as Social Security numbers. Unfortunately, each year thousands of Hoosiers fall victim to these types of scams that could end up costing millions.
Remember, if you ever receive a call from an organization identifying themselves as a revenue-related agency or a third party hired by a revenue agency, you have the right to question their “demands” and refuse to cooperate with their requests. Often just asking for a phone number to call them back will get them to hang up on you. If they do provide that number, check the internet to make sure it’s legitimate and never give them any information before confirming they are a trusted source.
But scams come in all forms, not just phone calls. Let’s talk about the different scam types and how to educate yourself so scammers won’t have a chance to steal your information or hard-earned dollars.
Email scams often target taxpayers by impersonating DOR, the IRS, or "local revenue service" organizations. They may ask you to confirm your account information by clicking a link or filling out a form as an attachment, verify PIN information, or share information about your tax filing or refund. Remember, DOR will not ask for personal information through email. And if you receive an email like this, remember, not to click on any links or open attachments coming from an unknown sender.
An unrecognized number comes up on your caller ID. Of course, you don’t answer the call, but you now have a voicemail that says, “A warrant has been issued in your name. You must call us at 1-555-555-5555 to get this resolved or law enforcement will take you to jail.” Ok, so, they may not use those exact words, but you get the idea. It’s a direct threat meant to get your attention and have you act quickly before looking into who this caller actually is.
Most phone scams related to taxes are designed to threaten taxpayers into paying money toward bogus tax bills to get them out of some sort of law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses. DOR and the IRS do not leave prerecorded, urgent or threatening messages. If you have an outstanding tax liability, you will first be contacted through U.S. mail.
Criminals can work around caller ID to appear to be from anywhere in the country, including from a DOR or IRS office. It’s a common trick used to gain trust. If you ever question the validity of a call received from someone identifying themselves as a representative from either tax agency, customers are encouraged to hang up and call the agency directly to verify the credibility of the call. If you’re not expecting a call, it’s most likely a scam.
But wait, there are also text scams now! Get an unexpected text from an unknown source? Don’t click on the link. I repeat, DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK. If you haven’t signed up for text alerts from a company or organization, this text is probably bogus.
Some texts ask you to call a phone number to verify personal information. They may ask for usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, PINs or other personal info. Never provide any information without first determining if the source is authentic. Always ask questions and if they get flustered or angry, that’s a telltale sign that fraud is occurring.
Ok, great, you’ve told me about all of these scams, but how do I know when it’s real or not?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s dive into how to identify a scam.
How to Identify a Scam
Remember DOR and the IRS will not:
- Call customers to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the taxpayer will receive a bill in the mail if taxes are owed.
- Demand payment from taxpayers without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. Taxpayers should also be advised of Indiana’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for refusing payment.
- Threaten to revoke a taxpayer’s driver’s license, business licenses or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics used by scam artists to trick victims into falling for their schemes.
What can you do if you think you’ve become a target of a scam?
- First, do not give out any personal information – always ask questions to verify the validity of the call or email and offer to contact that agency back on a known phone line or email address.
- If you’ve received an email, do not click on any links or attachments unless you know it is from a legitimate source; if you’re not sure, don’t click.
- Check out the tax scam webpages for DOR and the IRS to see the latest examples of reported scams.
Report any scams to the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or DOR at IndividualTaxAssistance@dor.in.gov.