- 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 TacticsIn 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 NumbersIRS 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 ScamIf 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 CallsWhoever 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 CallIf 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.