Prepare Yourself for IRS Phone Scams
Your phone rings. When you check, the caller ID shows it’s the IRS calling. (Three letters that can give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.) But you think to yourself: I don’t believe I owe any taxes. And I haven’t even submitted this year’s return. Why are they calling me? But it says it’s the IRS, so it must be them… right?
For a number of years scammers have been calling people across the country, spoofing the caller ID, claiming to be IRS officials, and demanding immediate payment of fines or back taxes. Their goal is to trick you into giving them personal information and/or get you to send cash.
So the REAL IRS has assembled a number of tips to help you understand what the criminals are doing and how to avoid becoming a victim of one of their scams:
- Scammers try to scare you. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully you into paying a bogus tax bill, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest, deport, or revoke your license if they don’t get the money. (If they don’t get through to you, they may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email. )
- Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use your name, address and other personal information (even your Social Security Number) to make the call sound official.
- Cons try new tricks all the time. Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell you to mail a receipt for the payment you make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official-looking IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send you. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
- Scams cost victims over $23 million. You probably think “I’ve heard this before; they won’t fool me.” But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts between October 2013 and November 2015. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam. The crooks get more sophisticated every year. The communications look and sound more real all the time too. And we’ll bet that a certain number of those 4,550 victims thought they wouldn’t be scammed either.
So to protect yourself, remember the following:
- The IRS will NOT call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
- The IRS will NOT demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
- The IRS will NOT require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
- The IRS will NOT ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- The IRS will NOT threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
Phone scams first tried to sting older people, new immigrants to the U.S. and those who speak English as a second language. But it has become such a profitable enterprise, the crooks now try to swindle just about anyone. And they’ve ripped-off people in every state in the nation. Stay alert. Don’t let the next victim be you!