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Tax filing robocall scams have been on the rise this month

Though tax season is winding downs, related scams show no signs of doing so

Photo (c) Designer 491 - Getty Images
While there have been countless scams targeting taxpayers over the last few months, Transaction Network Services (TNS) has found that there has been no letup in tax-related robocalls. In fact, taxpayers have been subject to an increase in such calls throughout the month of March. 

The agency’s report found that just two weeks ago, Americans were on the receiving end of 1.6 million robocalls. As tax season is winding down, it’s important for consumers to know the signs of a scam call and what to do to avoid falling victim to a potentially harmful scam. 

Three major tax-related robocalls

TNS highlighted three major tax-related scam calls that consumers can expect in the final weeks of tax season: ‘ghost’ tax preparers, scammers posing as the IRS, and assistance with unpaid taxes and debt relief. 

  • ‘Ghost’ Tax Preparers: This is a popular scam that involves fraudulent “tax preparers” promising to complete taxpayers’ returns for them. They ask for large sums of money upfront in exchange for their “work.” In some cases, the scammer will fill out all of the information correctly – except when it comes time to fill out the bank account information. That’s when they insert their own routing and account numbers to receive your refund. In other cases, the scammer won’t sign the final return, making the entire thing void. 

  • Posing as the IRS: This may be the most popular tax-related scam. Taxpayers can expect to receive phone calls from people claiming to be the IRS, but instead, they’re scammers looking to steal personal information. These calls are usually fear-based – they scare taxpayers into thinking they need to send money to the IRS immediately – or face legal action. Those who fall victim to this scam are likely to send the money to the scammer – who they believe is the IRS – out of fear of the repercussions. It’s important for taxpayers to know that the IRS will never reach out by phone call; all communications will come via mail. 

  • Unpaid Taxes and Debt Relief: In these scams, taxpayers will receive calls from agencies that claim to settle or consolidate tax debt. Though these services do exist and can be incredibly helpful to taxpayers, scammers are likely going to ask for money and other personal information over the phone. Taxpayers should be aware of any efforts that sound too good to be true – as well as any callers who ask for money or other personal information over the phone. 

Spotting scams and protecting yourself

John Haraburda, Director of Product Management for TNS' Identity and Protection Solutions, shared his best tips with ConsumerAffairs to help consumers protect themselves from these types of scams. 

There are several steps consumers can take to protect themselves from these unwanted robocall scams:

  1. Educate themselves on what some of the latest scams are. The FCC has a website that highlights recent scams, and our website has a Scam of the Month page that highlights the latest scams that we see.

  2. Work with their carrier to see if they have a robocall protection app and then leverage the protection afforded by the app.

  3. Don’t click on links from unknown numbers that text them. 

  4. Don’t call back numbers they don’t recognize; it could be a one-ring scam. One-ring scams prompt consumers to call back to a number, and when they do they then incur charges.

  5. Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers; legitimate callers will leave a voicemail. TNS is also working with businesses to deploy Enterprise Branded Calling in an effort to have critical brand information appear on incoming call screens to better educate consumers on who is calling.

“Consumers should know that bad actors behind these calls are looking to take advantage of them, swindling them out of money or important personal information,” Haraburda said. “Should consumers come into contact with one, they should report it to the FCC.” 

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