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Tax Relief Scams You Should Avoid

Believe it or not, tax relief scams are quite common. Unfortunately, most people think they're not as likely to fall victim to swindlers. Once targeted, victims often feel extemely upset with many questions.

To help you avoid tax relief scams, our team of tax lawyers in Orange County has identified several common strategies used by criminals and dishonest service providers.

1. Phone Scams

Criminals posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents victimized at least 2.4 million Americans from 2013 to 2018, collecting upwards of $72.8 million along the way.1 Many IRS impersonators carry out their schemes over the phone.

Also known as voice phishing or "vishing," these scammers call people en masse, demanding payment for unpaid tax bills. They threaten to revoke innocent victims' driver's licenses, deport them from the country or arrest them if they don't pay up.

They often sound legitimate. You may be tempted to pay them, especially after they read out your Social Security number, address, birthday or other private information. Vishing scammers may purchase this information from cybercriminals via the dark web. 

Phone scam perpetrators "spoof" their phone numbers, meaning they can appear to call you from any number. For example, your phone might indicate someone from the IRS is calling. 

If someone from the "IRS" calls you, immediately hang up. 

2. "Pennies On The Dollar" Misrepresentation

You've seen those commercials that promise to resolve clients' tax problems for "pennies on the dollar." The IRS does, in fact, settle some tax problems for less than what taxpayers owe.

Not everyone qualifies for these Offers in Compromise, however. Roughly 40% of all Offer in Compromise (OIC) applications were accepted by the IRS in 2017.2

Upon reaching out to seemingly-legitimate tax relief companies, they may promise that you'll qualify for an OIC. Their commercials or websites may be filled with testimonials of satisfied customers. You'll be disappointed once they tell you the IRS denied your application and demand payment for their services.

Before trusting any tax relief providers, be diligent in researching them. If they make obtaining an OIC sound easy, have bad reviews or promise to settle your back taxes for "pennies on the dollar," your best interests might not be in mind.

3. Marketing Company Trickery

The tax relief industry is big. Unscrupulous service providers know this better than anyone. The industry is full of marketing companies that will shamelessly promise to help you, ask for your personal info, and auction it to other companies.

By surrendering your information to marketing companies, you risk identity theft. You may even pay these marketers for services despite the fact they can't legally provide them.

To avoid these profit-minded marketing companies, only speak with licensed tax attorneys. Ask for their license numbers. You can look up current attorneys on the State Bar of California's website. Don't hesitate to verify this information. After all, you're just being diligent.

Resolving Your Tax Problems

Staffed by a team of tried-and-true tax lawyers in Orange County, fights the IRS and state tax agencies on our clients' behalf. Whenever you need help negotiating with the IRS, our Southern California tax lawyers are always here to help you reach financial freedom. To learn more about tax relief scams, or to get a tax lawyer for problems with the IRS, give a member of our staff a call at 1-800-290-8160 for your FREE consultation today.


  1. U.S. Department of Treasury – Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Semiannual Report to Congress
  2. Accounting Today – The fundamentals of the IRS OIC program

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