Within the last month the Internal Revenue Service has been inundated with reports from terrified taxpayers who have received notices that their taxes were underpaid.
While the form (number CP2000, specifically) is used legitimately by the IRS for this purpose, the version consumers and businesses have been reporting is definitely not.
Why the CP2000 scam is scary
This latest twist on tax fraud (coincidentally hitting mailboxes and inboxes during National CyberSecurity Awareness Month and just before Halloween) is scaring taxpayers and tax professionals for a variety of reasons.
First, a CP2000 notice is usually sent when the income and/or payment information on file with the IRS (from third-party sources such as an employer) doesn't match what the taxpayer reported on his/her tax return.
That's disturbing in and of itself; it could result in a change to the amount of taxes you owe, and if it increases, you'll also be due for interest. When a legitimate (six-page!) CP2000 form arrives from the IRS, taxpayers typically take notice.
Fraudsters are taking full advantage of the sense of urgency and fear the CP2000 form incites, and they've added another scare tactic: the fraudulent notice ties the discrepancies to the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).
How to recognize a fake IRS CP2000
The IRS issued an alert about these phony forms on September 23, 2016, advising taxpayers to watch for the following red flags:
- The scam may arrive by email, as an attachment or by mail (the IRS will never initiate legitimate contact with a taxpayer via an unsolicited email, text or social media).
- The fake notices appear to be issued from an Austin, Texas address.
- The letter says the issue is related to the Affordable Care Act and requests information regarding 2014 coverage (in reality, the IRS has very little or nothing to do with Obamacare).
- The payment voucher lists the letter number as "105C."
- The notice requests that you write a check payable to "I.R.S." and send it to the "Austin Processing Center" post office box (a real notice asks that checks be made out to "United States Treasury").
The scammy version of the form references your 2015 return and doesn't provide a phone number for you to call with questions--something the IRS will always urge you to do.
What to do if you receive the phony form
Like other phishing attempts, this one is designed to trick you into providing personal and/or financial information or money to the fraudsters. If you receive this or any other purported IRS communication that looks or sounds the least bit suspicious:
- Do not reply, send funds or provide information over the phone.
- Don't open email attachments or click any links; these could contain malicious code that could infect your computer or mobile device.
- Call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484 to confirm the legitimacy of the form or solicitation, or forward a suspicious email to firstname.lastname@example.org for further investigation.
- Report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Consumers and business owners are paying a bit more attention to cyberfraud and cybersecurity issues during this National CyberSecurity Month, but it's always a good time to be #CyberAware. Click here for more information about recent IRS tax scam alerts.
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