Scammers are impersonating IRS representatives and calling consumers across the country demanding taxes owed, the Internal Revenue Service warned Thursday.
The IRS issue a statement informing the public to be on the lookout for sophisticated phone scams in which victims are told they owe money to the IRS. They are then told that the taxes have to be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.
If a recipient of such a call refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.
In many cases, the IRS says the caller becomes hostile and insulting.
“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.”
If someone calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation, then it cannot be the actual IRS, Werfel said.
The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a just about any tax issue is likely to occur via mail. Moreover, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
The scammers are definitely sophisticated, often prepared with names, phone numbers and fake caller IDs.
Characteristics of this scam include:
- 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 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 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, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.