If a smooth-talking caller has ever tried to cheat you out of your hard-earned money, you’re far from alone. Such scams tend to be rampant at tax time and scammers are posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) representatives, demanding victims send money to avoid arrest or deportation.
According to an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll, the amount of money lost by Americans in 2020 increased with 9.2 billion U.S. dollars compared to 2019 and is the most amount of money lost due to scam calls in the period between 2014 and 2020.; that’s partly because such 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 on 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 by mail, not phone. It will never request payment without sending a bill first; will allow questions or appeals about your bill; won’t direct you to use specific payment methods; won’t ask for your 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 can often be clever, knowing some of their strategies can be the first step toward protecting yourself from their tactics. Do not send a money transfer to anyone who asks you to send them 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.
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to one of these scams and they sent money using Western Union, report it immediately. Find more information on fraud and scams and how to protect yourself at wu.com/fraudawareness.