IRS Phone Scams Still a Problem — Here’s What to Look Out For

A 59-year-old man in Minnesota was told he’d be arrested if he didn’t fork over $15,000 to the “IRS” — unfortunately, he did.

From South Dakota to Michigan to New Jersey to Kansas and South Carolina, authorities across the country have issued recent warnings of continued IRS phone scams that are swindling people out of thousands of dollars. Even one of our very own at TheBlaze has gotten such a call but thankfully identified it as a scam.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

In a message left to his voicemail, the caller told him to “Call the IRS hotline,” adding that “the issue is very time sensitive.”

“So before the IRS takes any action against your name, call the IRS as soon as possible,” the message said before giving him an incomplete New York area phone number to call back.

In August, the IRS reiterated its warning to taxpayers of widespread scams that occur over the phone, in emails and through letters.

As of October 2013, the IRS said it had received reports of over half of a million contacts being made by scammers. Collectively, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said over $20 million has been lost from about 4,000 people who have fallen victim to such scams.

“We continue to see these aggressive tax scams across the country,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “Scam artists specialize in being deceptive and fooling people. The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra cautious and think twice before answering suspicious phone calls, emails or letters.”

The IRS said that while people who might be seen as more vulnerable to fall for these have been targeted — older individuals and those who don’t speak English well — it warned that everyone seems to be susceptible now.

How do they trick you? According to the IRS, scammers obtain personal information about you using what can be found online. To make them seem more credible, they alter caller IDs to show a number that appears to be from the IRS or another government agency. They also have been known to use fake names, titles and badge numbers.

Here are some of the warning signs to look out for, according to the IRS:

  • Threats: Scammers will often use threats such as arrest or deportation. The IRS says it will never “threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.”
  • Urgent: The scammers make it seem like a transaction to remedy the supposed financial problem needs to be done immediately. The IRS, however, says it does not “demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.”
  • Payment method: Specifying a bank or use of a prepaid debit card to pay your taxes is something the IRS would NOT require of you. The IRS also will not ask you for banking or credit or debit card information over the phone.
  • No questions or appeals: While a scammer might not allow you to question or appeal the taxes you’re said to owe, the real IRS will allow you these.
  • Not a .gov: If correspondence is coming a .com, .net, .org or other URL ending that’s not a .gov, it’s not the IRS.

How will the IRS contact you if you have an issue with your taxes? The IRS will write you a letter via snail mail first. With some scammers copying IRS letterhead to seem more official, be sure to make sure none of the above happen in the letter and see the advice listed below if you think it could be a scam.

If you believe you have encountered such a scam, here’s what you should do:

  • If you actually do owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by any scam, be sure to 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.

Watch the IRS’ video on these scams:

Earlier this year, a woman who knew she was being tricked gave scammers a taste of their own medicine — watch it here.

(H/T: WFXT-TV)

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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