It’s scary how smart scammers are these days. According to Bloomberg BNA, the number of organizations that fell prey to a W-2 email scam rose substantially this year. Citing IRS officials, Bloomberg explained that this scam involved identity thieves posing as company executives who then requested employee Forms W-2 from payroll or HR departments.
No specific industry was safe from these attacks and the data loss from the scam likely affected hundreds of thousands of taxpayers.
When your small business has that type of sensitive information on the line, it’s good to be reminded of ways to determine if it’s really the IRS at your door or in your inbox.
The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail first. However there are certain circumstances when the IRS will call or come to a home or business. Incidents that require this would be things like: an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit.
4 things the IRS does not do:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific method like a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount.
- Threaten to bring in local law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.
- Revoke your driver’s license, business license or immigration status.
If you do owe taxes, here are 4 things the IRS will do:
- If a representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials. These are called a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. The HSPD-12 card is a government-wide standard form of reliable identification for federal employees and contractors and you have the right to see it.
- Collection employees may call or come to a home or business to collect a tax debt (unannounced) but they won’t demand you make an immediate payment to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.
- IRS employees may call taxpayers to set up appointments or discuss items surrounding an audit, but not without having first attempted notification by mail. After mailing the notification of an audit, the employee may call to discuss items pertaining to that audit.
- If there is a criminal investigation, IRS investigators may visit a home or business unannounced. But, these are federal law enforcement agents and won’t demand any money.
As always, beware of sly impersonators. Oftentimes, impersonators will use threats via email, phone calls or letters to intimidate and bully people into paying a fake bill. They’ll even go as far as threatening arrest.
What to do if you spot a scam:
Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration if it’s a phone scam. Visit this page or call 800-366-4484.
For emails claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about this topic from the IRS, click here.
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