In March, the Ohio Attorney General’s Help Center logged more than 340 reports of tax scams, compared to about 160 in January and 280 in February.
“Scam artists cast a wide net. They know not everyone will fall for it, but some will,” DeWine said. “We encourage people to be very careful, especially this time of year. Scam artists will try to scare you to death, saying they’re the IRS and they’re coming to throw you in jail if you don’t pay them immediately. The real IRS doesn’t operate like that.”
Among the tax scams reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the IRS impostor phone scam is the most common. In this scam, people generally get a call saying the federal government is taking action against them for tax problems and they must call back immediately (and eventually pay) to resolve the problem.
Tips to avoid the scams include:
• Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.
• Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card or by sending a wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists, because once sent, it’s very difficult to trace or recover the money. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay over the phone using one of these specific methods.
• Don’t respond to illegal robocalls in any way. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t call a number left on your phone or in a message. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls because it lets con artists know that your phone number belongs to a real person.
• Don’t always trust caller ID. Scammers may “spoof” a phone number, making the number on your caller ID appear to be from the IRS, even when it’s not. For example, a call may appear to be coming from a 202 (Washington D.C.) area code, when it’s actually coming from another country.
• Check into call-blocking options. Find out if services are available through your phone carrier, your phone itself, or third-party apps to help you stop unwanted calls.
IRS or U.S. Treasury impersonation scams can be reported to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484. Consumers also can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515 for help detecting a scam.