The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is seeing a growing number of tax-related phone scams. They can happen to anyone, at any time of the year —but it's especially prevalent around the end of the year and tax time. Scammers are typically after your money and possibly your identity as well. By staying alert and knowing the warning signs, you can keep your family safe.
Scammers prepare to defraud
Scammers often gather a lot of personal information about you even before they call, such as your:
- Full name
- Family member names
- Last 4 digits of your Social Security number
They use this information to make themselves seem knowledgeable and official. The scammers also alter the name and phone number that appears on your Caller ID to make it look like they are calling from the IRS. Their goal is to scare you into acting immediately, before you have time to think.
The phone scam
A scammer will call you and identify himself as an IRS agent, complete with a fake name and a bogus badge number.
- He'll say you owe delinquent taxes and demand immediate payment.
- The scammer will convincingly try to force you to give your bank account or credit card information, or he might instruct you to get a prepaid debit card to make your IRS payment.
If the call goes to an answering machine, the scammer will leave a message with a dire warning, demanding that you call back as soon as possible or risk arrest.
A slightly different phone scam
An alternative ploy is for the scammer to tell you that the IRS discovered it owes you a large refund and wants to pay you immediately. The scammer will then ask for your Social Security number and bank information so the IRS can transfer the money directly to your account.
How to spot an IRS phone scam
Scammers frequently say things the IRS would never say over the phone. Knowing what the IRS won’t say can help you quickly spot an IRS phone scam. The IRS will never:
- Call about money owed without first mailing you a bill
- Demand immediate payment by phone
- Demand payment without allowing you to question or appeal the amount
- Ask for your bank account or credit card information
- Require that you pay taxes in a certain manner, like with a prepaid debit card
- Threaten to send the police to arrest you
What if I get one of these calls?
If you get a phone call by someone claiming to be from the IRS:
- Don't talk to the caller or give out any information
- Hang up immediately
- Report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, either online at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting or by phone at 800-366-4484
- Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant
What if I do owe the IRS money?
Even if you owe money to the IRS:
- Hang up and do not talk to the caller
- Do not give out any information
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to sort out what you owe
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