When That IRS Agent May Really Be a Fraudster

When That IRS Agent May Really Be a Fraudster

Apparently, Halloween celebrations lasted far beyond October 31 last year.

And, instead of the usual crowd of ghosts and vampires, the disguise de rigueur was an IRS agent who insists that you owe him money.

That’s according to a newly released report from the Federal Trade Commission, which found that the rate of “imposter scams,” in which a con artist impersonates a government official, increased significantly—from 60,000 to 160,000—in 2014.

In fact, last year marked the first time that such threats ranked among the top three consumer complaints reported to the FTC—comprising 11% of all recorded issues.

The trend was led largely by the increase in the number of IRS impostor scams: Between 2013 and 2014, the number of complaints about this situation increased from 2,545 to a whopping 54,690.

Despite the huge uptick, identity theft still clocked in as the No. 1 consumer complaint for the 15th year in a row, making up 13% of all problems. And that makes sense, given the data breaches that have recently hit big companies like Home Depot.

The report also found that certain areas of the U.S. were more vulnerable to scammers. For example, Florida had the highest per capita rates of reported fraud and identity theft complaints.

But fortunately, no matter where you live, it’s possible to take certain precautions against potential impostors—like understanding how the IRS legitimately communicates with Americans. According to CNN, if you do owe money in taxes, the IRS will notify you via snail mail—not via a phone call or email. And the IRS will never request that you wire money or pay with a debit card.

The IRS also advises that, if you do get a call from someone claiming to be a government official, you hang up and dial the IRS back directly.

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