IRS Warns of Scam Targeting Hard of Hearing Citizens
We’re about a week away from April 15 – Tax Day! Some of us have filed last year’s taxes, while some of us are scrambling to get our paperwork together. Wherever you are in your tax process, it’s important to make sure that you are keeping your personal and financial information safe.
This is especially important for people who experience hearing loss. With new, electronic modes of corresponding with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and new ways to file, there is more risk of falling prey to tax scams.
We’ll take a look at some of the common scams that con artists pull around tax season and give you tips to protect yourself.
Video Relay Service Scam Targeting the Deaf & Hard of Hearing
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, video relay services (VRS) are an assistive listening option to elucidate phone calls. VRS is a video connected to your phone calls, with an interpreter or captions that appear on a video screen, fueled by a high-speed Internet connection. VRS is a publicly funded service for Americans who experience difficulty hearing.
Though useful for people with difficulty hearing, VRS could be one way for con artists to get their hands on your personal and financial information, in a new scam. The IRS warns that con artists have been found to use VRS to steal taxpayers’ identities and personal information. They tell us, “Deaf and hard of hearing taxpayers should avoid giving out personal and financial information to anyone they do not know. Always confirm that the person requesting personal information is who they say they are.”
Unfortunately, VRS does not screen phone calls for validity before they patch them through to taxpayers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Con artists on VRS will make it appear as though they are calling from an IRS phone number, so it will be difficult to tell by caller ID. As a result, it is important for you to be alert and aware. If you receive a call through VRS from someone who claims to be from the IRS, keep the following in mind:
The IRS will never “demand immediate payment and require the payment be made in a specific way, such as by prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. In most cases, the IRS will not call taxpayers about taxes owed without first having mailed a letter to the taxpayer.” The IRS will never “threaten that local police or other law-enforcement groups will immediately arrest taxpayers for not paying a tax bill.”
The IRS will never “demand that taxpayers pay taxes without giving them the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed” nor will they ever “ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.”
If you experience a suspicious call from VRS, contact the FTC Complaint Assistant here, and include “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Other Scams to Watch Out For
Con artists will also try to “phish,” a term used for email scams. Phishing emails, calls, or texts look and sound official, but they will “urge you to give up sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers, bank account, or credit card numbers.” Make sure that you do not ever give this information out over email or phone call or text. If you receive suspicious emails that claim to be from the IRS, forward them to [email protected]
In the 2016 tax season, the IRS reported a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents. They warn that some emails are designed to look like official correspondence from the IRS, including websites that “mirror” the official IRS website. The IRS advises us to check the website addresses in these emails. For example, if an email mentions USA.gov or IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”, i.e. as IRS.gov with a dot), do not click on the link or reply with any information!
Always keep in mind this important fact: The IRS will never ask for information or payment over the phone or over email. If there is a payment request, you will always receive a hard copy letter in the mail.
For more information on other types of scams, check out IRS’s page here.
Keep Yourself Safe from Scams
Among the many benefits of treating hearing loss, ensuring your safety and security is a major one. With untreated hearing loss, conversations – especially on the phone – become very difficult.
If you’ve been experiencing changes in your hearing, give us a call at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions. A simple hearing test will put you on the path to better hearing.