- posted by Paul Oliveira, CPA in the Tax Blog
The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. I was even recently surprised when my wife received one of these calls and was told that the police were on their way with an arrest warrant!
There have been over 90,000 complaints to date and more than 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. There are some clear warning signs about these scams that you should be aware of. Educating yourself and learning what to listen for can save you time and money if confronted by a scammer.
- Calls from the IRS, especially your first contact with the agency are never out of the blue. This is done via official correspondence through the mail. If you receive a random call from someone saying they are with the IRS and you have not received a notice in the mail, which is a huge red flag!
Additionally, it is important to note that the IRS will:
- Never ask for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
- Never insist that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations.
- Never request immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
Many callers in the IRS scam have told victims that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or that they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Be on the lookout for some of these scam tactics:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
Be vigilant against any phone calls you may receive from the IRS.
The IRS will never contact taxpayers via email for personal or financial information. If you receive an email that contains this information, do not click on any of the attachments and forward it immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information or guidance on IRS communications contact any member of our Tax Services Group.