Phone scams have been making the rounds with callers pretending to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims. Over the past two years, nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million to scammers posing as IRS officials. Typically, in the scheme, callers posing as IRS representatives say the victims owe money and then threaten arrest if the amount is not paid immediately. Callers may be targeting immigrants or calling after hours or during times when it might be inconvenient to contact the IRS for verification. The IRS has noted a few patterns in these calls such as:
- 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” or imitate 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 a 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 and you’re not sure and you have a legitimate tax issue outstanding, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484.
- The IRS will not initiate contact with you by email, text or social media.
- The IRS rarely contacts you by phone without having made an attempt to send you a notice by mail. If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call the IRS back at 1.800.829.1040.
- If you receive a scam email, don’t respond or click on the links. You can forward the scam emails to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you receive a scam phone call, you can report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484. Do not engage the caller and do not give out any personal information.
- The IRS will not threaten arrest or use abusive language on the phone.
The IRS will not request payment for taxes over the phone using pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers. If you want to make a legitimate payment for taxes by credit card, you can do so via the IRS web site. Don’t follow links to the site via an email that you don’t recognize. You can always pop over to irs.gov and use the search box feature.