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Phone Scams are Everywhere – How to Spot Them in the Wild

Tax Consultation

IRS phone scams are common, and one of the most common is the IRS impersonation scam. This scam, which is becoming a “classic,” targets taxpayers, often at the end of the year, during tax time, or just after tax time.

The scam starts when the scammer calls you pretending to be an IRS agent and says that you owe a lot of money in back taxes, demanding that you pay immediately. The scammer usually try to get your bank account or credit card information, but some have asked for prepaid debit cards or even, perhaps unbelievably, iTunes gift cards (A scammer who likes music?). Another ploy is the reverse: the IRS owes you money and needs your bank information to pay you. These people spoof caller ID so they look like the IRS, and sometimes they appear to know everything about you. Thieves have also used video relay services to target deaf individuals. They often provide a badge number which is, of course, bogus.

The most important thing to remember is this: The IRS does not call people to ask for money. (They also do not email, text, or contact via social media. If you owe money to the IRS, they will mail you a bill).

The IRS is also never going to ask you for gift cards of any kind. They do not threaten to call the police on you; somebody who is refusing to pay will receive a subpoena if it goes to court. They do not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. And if you do owe them money, you frequently have an opportunity to appeal the amount.

So, what should you do if you receive one of these calls? First, hang up immediately. Do not talk to the caller even to confirm your identity. Then report the call to both the IRS and the FTC. Even if you know you do owe the IRS money, take these steps. The IRS will never initiate phone calls with people who owe money but will expect you to call them. Also, if you receive one of these random calls, remember they are targeting thousands of people and try not to be alarmed. The IRS is not about to send the police to your door– it is a scam. Scammers will simply move on to the next person if they get nowhere with you.