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Be on the Lookout for IRS Scam Phone Calls

April 08, 2020

The caller ID might say “IRS” but don’t be fooled—Learn how to distinguish between a valid and phony IRS agent.

Editor’s Note- This blog has been updated as of April 8, 2020 with the latest information.

People around the U.S. are urged to stay vigilant when taking phone calls from the “IRS” as the person behind the call could very well be stealing your personal information and tricking you out of thousands of dollars. The IRS is warning taxpayers, especially during this time, to stay alert for phony IRS scammers who have moved beyond their usual victim set (elderly individuals, immigrants, and those who use English as a second language) and are now targeting and ripping off people of all ages/backgrounds. There are certain red flags you should be looking out for when taking phone calls from a tax agent.

What does the typical scammer usually say?

There are certain tactics that IRS posers will use to scare victims out of money. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Using fake caller ID - Some scammers are sophisticated with their hacks and are able to alter caller ID to make it seem like the actual IRS is contacting you. These criminals will often follow up by asserting their phony titles and/or badge numbers and addressing you by name to sound more believable.
  • Threatening/scaring the victim- Scammers will often use threats of arrest, deportation, or license revocation to push victims into handing over money. Elderly taxpayers have historically been the targets of calls—the criminal will scare the individual into paying by claiming that the individual’s family members owe taxes and will face jail time if they leave them unpaid, for example.
  • Demanding a certain payment type- A criminal posing as an IRS official will usually demand that the victim pays a tax bill they “owe” through a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

How can I stay on guard?

Keeping alert against a phone call scam requires knowledge of how an actual IRS agent will contact you.

You should note that a valid IRS agent will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest, deportation, etc.
  • Call you without first sending a bill through the mail.
  • Require an immediate payment without allowing you to question it.
  • Require that you pay in a certain manner (wire transfer, prepaid card, etc.) or demand that you give your card number out over the phone.

The IRS advises that as soon as you receive a call (even if you believe there is a valid reason for the IRS to be calling you) you should hang up immediately before giving away any information. Call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to inquire about the call. They will be able to assist you if you owe or think you might owe any taxes.

If you believe a call is suspicious, report it immediately to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484 and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC Complaint Assistant).

Questions? Contact any member of our Tax Services Team and check out our Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information.

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