Taxpayers need to be careful if they should receive a call from someone purporting to be from the tax office, because there is a good chance it’s a scam.
The scam works when a scammer contacts the victim over the phone pretending to be calling from the tax office. For example the IRS in the United States, HMRC in the UK or the ATO in Australia.
The scammer claims the victim has an outstanding tax debt that needs to be paid or punitive action will be taken against the victim, often asserting that this could mean jail. The crook will falsely claim the victim underpaid their tax or made a tax miscalculation, resulting in the debt.
Of course it’s just a lie. The scammer is attempting to panic the victim into handing over money, but the chances are the victim has no tax debt whatsoever.
The aim of this scam is to panic and pressure the victim into paying. The scammer will pressure the victim into paying by making a variety of threats, and this can include claiming the victim will be fined or may go to prison. The scammer may also assert that they will send the authorities to the victim’s house if they fail to pay.
If the victim agrees, they will end up handing money to a criminal, so it is important that victim’s do not fall for this scam. It is also vital that victim’s don’t hand over any sensitive tax information to these crooks as these can often be used for the purposes of identity theft.
Such scams have become increasingly sophisticated and such scammers can use spoof caller ID’s to create the illusion that they are calling from a legitimate tax office.
These scams often originate from countries such as India and are often vast operations that can originate from actual call centres. In 2016 one of the call centres that was targeting American victims when the crooks were posing as IRS officials was shut down by authorities leading to the detention of hundreds of people involved with the scam.
It is important to remember that tax offices – no matter what country you are living in – will never make unexpected cold calls to people and threaten fines or jail time. If you ever get such a call, hang up the phone. You can always call up your tax office using their phone number on their website if you’re unsure.