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Don’t fall for ‘audit’ scam

Tax season is well over, and the summer season officially starts Saturday, so most of us are happily not thinking about the Internal Revenue Service.
Unfortunately, there is no off-season for scammers who would use anything — even the threat of a government audit — to get at people’s money.

Margaret Kramer found that out Thursday when she got a call saying she was being audited by the IRS and that she needed to call a telephone number provided and speak with an agent named Steve Harrison Clark.
Unfortunately for these scammers, Kramer has been an accountant for 55 years and knows a bit about these things, such as the fact that IRS agents don’t give you their full names. But she called, and the alleged agent told Kramer she was being audited for the years 2011-2013, and that she owed income taxes.
Kramer knew the call was fraudulent, but played along. How much did she owe, she asked the man. He didn’t have a specific amount. Then the man asked Kramer if she was a senior citizen (you’d think the IRS would know) and, when she said yes, he told her she owed property taxes. She’s not a homeowner, she told the man.

Undeterred to that point, the “agent” told Kramer if she provided the information he needed, he could stop the audit within two or three hours. First, Kramer told him, she needed some information. She asked for his identification number and told him she’d check it out with the IRS.
“And he hung up on me,” she said. “He knew then that I knew what I was talking about.”
Bravo for Kramer. The scammer didn’t even get to the point of asking for a credit card or bank account number. But it could be — and too often is — a different outcome for other older adults who, she says, “don’t know anything about the IRS, and might be afraid of the IRS and might give them the information.”
The IRS issued a warning earlier this year about what the agency called “pervasive” telephone scams perpetrated in its name. The scammers use “sophisticated and aggressive” tactics and often try to bully their potential victims into paying up with threats. Sometimes they call back with a different strategy if their first attempt fails.
It’s continuing even now, months after the April tax filing deadline.

Don’t fall for it. The IRS will always send written notification through the U.S. mail of any tax due. Its agents don’t make initial contact through a phone call, or an email, or any form of social media.
More information about scams like this and how to report them is available on the agency’s website, www.irs.gov. You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to check any claims about taxes you owe.

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