Have you recently received a phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS? Perhaps they said that you owe taxes that require immediate payment, or you may face arrest, deportation, or license revocation if you don’t pay your bill. Before you start panicking, you need to learn about IRS phone scams and how to determine whether or not the call was legitimate.
IRS scam calls are unfortunately very common. The IRS lists threatening impersonator phone calls on their “Dirty Dozen” list of known tax scams for the 2020 filing season. In addition to phishing and fake charities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, IRS phone scams lock down one of the top spots on the list due to their prevalence and frequency.
Although IRS phone scams surge during tax seasons, con artists may try to steal your sensitive information throughout the whole year. Keep reading to learn how you can detect an IRS telephone scam and what steps to take if you identify one. Or, to skip to a particular section, simply click on one of the links below:
- Does the IRS Call You?
- How Do IRS Scam Calls Work?
- How to Spot an IRS Phone Call Scam
- What to Do if You Receive an IRS Telephone Scam Call
Does the IRS Call You?
The IRS will never call you to demand payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Instead, if they have any questions about personal tax debt or your tax refund, they will mail you a letter using the U.S. Postal Service. Additionally, the IRS will never threaten to have you arrested, revoke your business license, deport you, and so on for not paying your tax bill—these are scare tactics commonly used by scammers to pressure people into making payments.
If you do owe a tax debt, here are the steps that the IRS will take:
- Collection: You may be visited or called at your home or business by an IRS collection employee, but they will never ask you to make a payment to any entity besides the U.S. Treasury.
- Audits: If an IRS employee is conducting an audit, they may call you to set up an appointment or discuss certain issues, but they will first attempt to contact you by mail and send an official notification of an audit.
- Criminal investigations: In some cases, IRS criminal investigators may show up unannounced to your home or business to discuss an investigation, but these are federal law enforcement agents and they won’t request any kind of payment.
How Do IRS Scam Calls Work?
You’ll receive an unsolicited phone call from someone impersonating an IRS agent. Telephone numbers are part of the public domain and incredibly easy for scammers to access. There are many different ways they can get your number and call you, from harvesting big data to using technology to dial millions of random numbers. To listen to an example of what an IRS scam call may sound like, you can visit ftc.gov.
IRS Phone Scam Tactics
In any case, once your privacy has been violated, the impersonator on the other end of the IRS phone scam will claim to work for the federal government as an IRS agent. They’ll accuse you of fraud, misconduct, or outstanding tax debt. Their message will be urgent, time sensitive, and might claim that you’ll be arrested for not paying your tax bill immediately.
The goal is to instill fear into the IRS telephone scam recipient in order to get them to pay for a bogus bill. Instead of going to the government to rectify an alleged outstanding tax obligation, any payment made over the phone would go straight to the con artist.
IRS Phone Scam Numbers
IRS scam calls are frighteningly successful at duping taxpayers. Between October 2013 and February 2017 alone, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports that they have become aware of over 10,000 victims who have collectively paid over $54 million as a result of phone scams. Learning how to identify IRS phone scams can help prevent you from becoming another statistic.
How to Spot an IRS Phone Call Scam
If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be an IRS official, you should immediately be suspicious. You might also receive a voicemail leaving an urgent callback request through “robo-calls,” which is also a reason for concern. Scammers frequently alter caller ID numbers to make it look like a legitimate government agency is calling and appear more credible; in order to spot these IRS scam calls, remember that generally, the real IRS will always initially mail a bill via the U.S. Postal Service to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
IRS Scam Calls
Whoever you speak to during an IRS telephone scam might be resourceful, prepared with your name, address, and other personal information to improve their perceived legitimacy. To determine whether or not the person works for the IRS, ask for their name and employee ID number. Hang up, then call the IRS back to determine whether or not that person works there.
An IRS lawsuit phone scam typically uses intimidation tactics to bully the victim into paying. They may threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying. Aggressive tactics such as this are red flags since the IRS will never make these threats. Keep in mind, however, that variations of IRS impersonations continue year-round and you need to stay vigilant against new methods.
A final characteristic of an IRS phone call scam is the demand for payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed. The scammer may request a specific payment method and con victims into sending cash, usually through a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card. Note that the IRS will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; if the person calling you does this, it’s a tell-tale sign that it is an IRS scam call.
What to Do if You Receive an IRS Telephone Scam Call
If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone who claims to be with the government, follow these steps to protect your personal information, dodge an IRS phone scam, and report the incident:
- Ask for their name and employee ID number.
- Hang up. Do not give out any of your information, don’t engage, and don’t call back.
- If you know you don’t owe any taxes, report the scam to TIGTA by calling 800-366-4484 or going to their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage.
- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov using the “FTC Complaint Assistant“. Include “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
- If you think you may owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and speak to a worker who can help sort out your situation.
New IRS Scams
It may seem impossible to keep up with new threats the long list of tax scams impose. From IRS phone scams to phishing hackers and fake charities to return preparer fraud, the dangers faced by taxpayers are very real. According to fcc.gov, scammers will even threaten to suspend your Social Security Number because of an unpaid tax bill. To learn about all of the latest scams targeting taxpayers, check out the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” list of scams for 2020.
If you’re nervous about IRS scam calls, consider using Community Tax for greater security when filing your taxes. Using Community Tax’s professional tax filing service, you can ensure that your return is filed perfectly and is free of any errors. If it turns out you have any outstanding tax obligations, we’ll work with you to settle your debt using the best tax resolution option for your situation. We can help make sure you’re in good standing with the IRS, thus minimizing the chances that you’ll get conned into an IRS phone call scam.
Community Tax also offers a Tax Assurance Program (TAP) to prevent any IRS problems and provide year-round tax identity theft assistance. This program can help to defend you from IRS scam calls and give you peace of mind at an affordable rate.
If you’ve been the unfortunate victim of an IRS phone scam, we can help resolve your case. Our tax practitioners have experience fixing many of these situations on behalf of our clients by dealing directly with the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
IRS Scam Call Victim Aid
If you’ve fallen victim to an IRS phone scam, there are a few steps you can take to resolve your situation. As stated above, you should immediately file a report with TIGTA and file a complaint with the FTC by visiting ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Once you explain what happened, you’ll be provided with several measures that will help you protect yourself going forward. Additionally, your complaint will be shared with more than 3,000 law enforcement professionals, and an investigation into the incident may be opened.
When filing a report about an IRS phone scam, it’s best to do it as soon as possible. If your sensitive data has been stolen, it may take a significant amount of time and effort to retrieve what you lost, change your passwords, and update security measures. That’s why you should do everything in your power to avoid falling victim to an IRS phone scam in the first place. Contact Community Tax today to learn how we can prevent tax-related scams, and help resolve your situation in the case that you do fall victim to one.
IRS phone scammers target people year-round, but they tend to ramp up their efforts during tax season. With that in mind, it’s important to always be on the lookout for IRS phone scams—become familiar with the red flags to watch out for and report any scam calls that come your way.
Remember that the IRS will always attempt to contact you by mail first, and they will only call you on the phone in certain instances. If the person on the other end of the line is making threatening statements and demanding immediate payment, it’s safe to assume they’re a scammer. Don’t fall for their schemes and allow them to steal your most sensitive information. To keep your taxes in order and protect yourself from IRS phone scams, contact Community Tax today and see how we can help.