If you get an email claiming to be from the government and demanding immediate payment of taxes, you can be pretty sure it’s a scam, since the IRS will communicate such things by regular U.S. Postal Service mail. In addition, the IRS will give you time to contact your accountant and your legal counsel.
Legitimate IRS agents will not demand immediate payment on their first contact with your company. You have legal rights after all and that includes the right of due process involving audits, hearings, the right to present evidence in your defense and appeals.
Note that those emails may have vaguely official-looking documents attached in an effort to convince you that they’re real. But they’re not, and in any case you should avoid clicking on such things. One thing you can do is examine the actual links in the email and see where they really go. Be aware that it’s common to create a link that seems to be government link when it’s not.
A good indication that a link is fake is when it looks something like this: www.treasury.irs.fredsfraudshopgov.com.” Note that the beginning of the URL seems to be from the government source, but that there’s a .com ending. The government uses a .gov ending for its domains.
Phone calls are a little easier, since the IRS will never call you. But if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the government and demanding payment, you can assume it’s fraudulent, and hang up on them. Or, you can collect their information and pass it along to the Treasury Inspector General.
Some of these folks who send emails and make phone calls can be very persuasive, and they’re still faithfully keeping up the effort to part you from your money. This is one reason you (or your accounting staff) may be asked to contribute money.
If you do send some money to the scammers, you can report how much on the Inspector General website mentioned above. But before you send money, please be aware that the U.S. government does not ask for nor accept payment in the form of gift cards or iTunes cards. Demanding payment in such an untraceable means is a sure giveaway that the scam is in play.
Despite your best efforts, these scammers will keep trying to get to someone in your company, which means that in addition to knowing what to do, you also need to train everyone in your company to be aware of the scams and how they work. This will help protect your company from well-practiced criminals. The Inspector General offers some advice as well that’s worth reading.
Your employees are your best defense against falling for the schemes of online and phone scammers, but only if they’re trained and motivated. That part is up to you.