In many cases, the con artists may already know a lot about you and are searching for even more information to help with their identity theft. Often they will alter the caller ID on the phone to make it appear the call is coming from the IRS when it isn’t, so you can’t rely on that for verification. If you ask for a name and badge number, they will likely give it to you quickly without hesitation, although it will be fake on both accounts. If you happen to not pick up the phone, they will leave a message saying it’s “urgent” you call back as quickly as possible.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warns consumers that, “These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls. We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of the call, it’s likely a scam. If you didn’t initiate the call yourself, you should assume it’s a scam, and ask to call the IRS agent who called back. When doing so, don’t call back the number given to you, but call the IRS office number from the phone directory where the person says they work and ask for the agent. The IRS says if any one of the following five tips applies, the call is a scam.
Five things the IRS will never do:
- The IRS will never call you in regard to taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice in the mail. If you never received a notice, then the call is a scam.
- The IRS will never threaten to have you be arrested or call the local police or other law-enforcement groups if you don’t immediately pay. If you’re threatened in this way, it’s a scam.
- The IRS will never demand a tax payment without first allowing you to question or appeal the amount in question. If you get a call demanding payment and it’s the first time you’ve ever heard of it, it’s a scam.
- The IRS will never ask for you to provide your credit or your debit card numbers over the phone. If you are asked for either of these at any time, it’s a scam.
- The IRS will never require a specific payment method to pay taxes you owe, such as a prepaid debit card. if they say there is only one way to pay, it’s a scam.
If you are contacted by any person who says they work for the IRS and demands money or personal information, you should immediately contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 or Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
(Photo courtesy of Ray Tsang)