Smooth-talking callers try to cheat people out of their hard-earned money on a relatively constant basis. Such scams tend to be rampant at tax time, as scammers pose as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) representatives, demanding victims send money to avoid arrest or deportation. This year tax day has been moved to May 17, 2021, so such calls are ramping up.
According to an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll, the amount of money lost by Americans in 2020 to scam calls increased $9.2 billion compared to 2019 and is the most amount of money lost due to such calls in the period between 2014 and 2020. These big numbers are evidence that fraud has become easier for criminals as technology has enabled both number-finding and robo-dialing.
Many fraudsters see tax time as an ideal time to prey upon people facing uncertainty or anxiety about getting their tax returns right, which is why they may call and impersonate IRS officials threatening arrest, deportation, eviction or license revocation if taxes are not paid immediately by using a money transfer, loading a prepaid card or purchasing a gift card.
Remember, though, that the IRS almost always resolves issues via mail, not phone. The U.S. government will never request payment without sending a bill first; will allow questions or appeals about the bill; won’t direct a person to use specific payment methods; won’t ask for credit or debit card numbers by phone and won’t threaten arrest or similar consequences.
A consumer’s greatest weapon in fighting fraud is education and awareness. While fraudsters often can be clever, knowing some of their strategies can be the first step toward protecting oneself from their tactics. People should not send a money transfer to anyone who asks for money to pay taxes. The IRS does not contact consumers to demand payment for taxes through money transfer or prepaid cards.
More descriptions of scams that use tax season as a lure are available at IRS.gov.
Anyone who has fallen victim to such scams and sent money using Western Union, it should be reported immediately. Find more information on fraud and scams and how to protect oneself at wu.com/fraudawareness.