Parents of college kids now have something new to worry about: a student tax scam. It’s that time of year when parents worry back at home that their post-adolescent little darlings are off making good decisions and forgoing partying to study, our college-aged youth worry about exams, term papers, difficult professors and of course – how to make time for that active social life they love oh so much. Unfortunately, amongst all of this both parents and students have a new issue to deal with: a new IRS scam targeting their demographic. The scammers are calling victims, demanding payments for a “federal student tax.” But here is the thing: not only is it not the IRS calling, but there is no such thing as a “federal student tax.”
These impersonators often become hostile and threaten to sue or report the student to the police if the money owed is not wired immediately or sent in another form. Parents and students should be on the lookout for any calls demanding fake tax payments.
Tax scams are increasing at an alarming rate, and these swindlers are only getting bolder. The “student tax” calls are just the latest rackets they have been running in order to trick innocent people inti sending them money. According to the IRS, almost 8,000 people have been scammed, totaling a loss of more than $44.5 million to these IRS imposters since October 2013.
Tactics of the Student Tax Scam
The scammers are getting very crafty with their schemes, and advancing their techniques every day. Though you may think only a small percentage of people are victimized, or that it would be easy to tell that these calls are fraudulent, you would be surprised for a number of reasons. For starters, these impersonators mimic legitimate marketers, adapting their messages to fit the season. Also, the callers employ spoofing technology so that the phone number on the recipient’s caller ID screen appears to be coming from the IRS. It does not help matters either that the use of robo-calls for marketing or debt collection is completely legal and that many of these callers employ the same tactics making them appear legitimate. Additionally, many struggling students – who have taken out loans – have had negative experiences in dealing with bill collectors and are more susceptible to be rattled by calls regarding a supposed student tax bill.
Every single day across the country, people are constantly bombarded by calls and demands for money. Some of them are legal, some are not. It is getting harder and harder to tell the difference. According to the IRS, although most of the tax scams used to come from the old-fashioned live callers, they are now turning to robo-calling technology. With these newer calls, the victims would receive an urgent message on their voice mail telling them to call a phone number in order to settle their tax bill and that this call was their “last warning” before legal action would take place. So, as you can see, before the taxpayer has even spoken to an actual person, the stage has already been set for them to feel afraid and backed into a corner. When they do call back, they are often threatened by the scammer with arrest, deportation, or revocation of their driver’s license. Understandably, any one of these threats would be frightening to a young college kid just trying to make it through school.
How to Tell if a Call Is a Student Tax Scam or Legitimate
As we have mentioned in previous blogs, you should be wary of anyone calling you claiming to be from the IRS. If you owe the Internal Revenue Service any money, or if there is an issue with your taxes at all, they will contact you via U.S. Postal Mail. If, for some strange reason, you do find yourself on the phone with the IRS, they would never demand payment on the spot nor would they request it in some specific method such as a wire transfer; nor would they ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Payment to the IRS is never handled over the phone. According to the agency, during one particular flood of calls over the summer, the imposters demanded that the taxpayers pay them via iTunes gift cards. That should certainly set off some red flags.
In addition to the payment issue, an agent would never take an aggressive, or threatening tone with a taxpayer, and the taxpayer has a right to ask questions about any alleged tax bill before forking over money to the IRS. So if a caller does threaten a recipient and takes on a hostile demeanor and demands payment, that is another red flag.
A spokesman for the IRS stated that if consumers have any doubt about the legitimacy of a call they should hang up and call the IRS telephone number.
What to Do if You Get a Tax Scam Call
If someone contacts you claiming to be from the IRS, do not give out any personal information and hang up immediately! Then you should report the call by contacting the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. It is important that you also report it to the F.T.C. The F.T.C. advises that if you get a voice mail message you should not call the number back. They have also posted a consumer warning on its website regarding fraudulent tax calls which included a recording of one of these said messages.
What to Do if You Think You Might Really Owe Taxes
If you are worried that you might really owe the IRS taxes, you can contact the IRS directly at 1(800) 829-1040.