IRS Phone Scams: Don't Fall For It

Never give information or make a payment over the phone to someone claiming to be from the IRS.

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If someone calls you on the phone claiming to be from the IRS, says that you owe the back taxes, and demands that you pay immediately with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, hang-up the phone. The caller is a fraudster participating in what the IRS says is the largest tax scam of its kind. To date, these fraudsters have taken in thousands of victims who have paid them over $1 million. Needless to say, these thieves are not from the IRS. They prey particularly on immigrants and the elderly, often threatening their victims with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license if they don’t pay them. They often become hostile and insulting in their attempt to intimidate their victims. The IRS says that the thieves who run this scam often use sophisticated means to make it appear they are legitimate. For example, they:
  • use common names and fake IRS badge numbers
  • know the last four digits of your Social Security number
  • make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling
  • send bogus IRS emails to support their fake calls, or
  • call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicle with caller ID again to support their claim.

Things the Real IRS Does Not Do

The IRS makes very limited use of email or the phone when dealing with taxpayers. It usually first contacts people by postal mail about unpaid taxes, not by phone or email. So if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS stating that you owe taxes, and this is the first time you’ve heard about it, the caller is almost certainly a scammer. Also, the IRS normally gets paid by check or credit card. It never asks taxpayers for payment via pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers. Nor will the IRS ever ask you for your credit card number over the phone. The IRS never sends emails requesting your personal or financial information, including PINs, passwords, or similar confidential information for credit card, bank, or other accounts. So never respond to emails requesting such information. What To Do When a Scammer Calls Immediately hang up the phone if you get a call from a suspected scammer who claims to be with the IRS and demands that you pay back taxes. Give the thief absolutely no financial or other information. He or she may be seeking not only to steal your money, but take your identity as well. Here’s what you should do next:
  • if you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040; IRS workers can help you with your payment questions
  • if you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

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