If you’re like me, you’ve probably received abusive phone calls from people purporting to be from the IRS, or a bank or credit card company. Abusive phone scammers call my home frequently. A very common scam, one that is going on a lot right now, is the Angry IRS Caller. They speak with a stern voice and say they’re with the IRS.
The scam goes like this:
“This is revenue officer Jones, and I’m calling about the serious back taxes that you owe. If you call right now we can get this taken care of right away, but if not we will send officer Ramirez who is in your neighborhood to your house with a warrant. You need to call right now.”
The name is fake. The caller ID has been altered to look like the IRS is calling. Some victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. Most are told to send money — promptly — through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.
Calls like this can be very intimating, especially for older folks, but …
The IRS will NOT …
- Call you to demand immediate payment.
- Require that you pay your taxes a certain way, such as by using a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
The same IRS source notes that even if an individual owes taxes, the IRS never telephones to demand that they be paid immediately. In fact, the IRS always allows an individual to question or appeal the amount they owe.
Here’s what to do if someone claiming to be an IRS officer calls and demands money:
1. Hang up immediately.
Do not give out any information. Literally just hang up. You could let it drop there, or if you want to pursue it you can contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call (800) 366-4484. You can also report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant.” Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes you submit.
2. Call the IRS yourself, if you need to.
If you think you may owe tax (or if you know you owe tax), call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to discuss the matter. Better yet, seek a qualified advisor for help. My office does not provide tax advice, but we can help line up a qualified tax professional to assist you.
3. Delete emails asking for information.
A bogus email may ask you for personal information. It may contain links to access “IRS e-services,” but these too are bogus. Such emails are phishing schemes designed to capture your username, password and other information. Do NOT click on any links provided.
4. Stay alert.
Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time.
The IRS says that in 2015 it worked closely with the states and the tax industry to identify more safeguards to protect individual federal and state tax accounts from identity thieves. While many of these steps are invisible to the public, they help verify the taxpayer’s identity, the validity of each tax return and more.
So, don’t be duped by calls (or emails or texts) purporting to be from a tax agency. Federal and state tax authorities would never contact you out of the blue and threaten you with harm if you don’t pay an amount promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. They just don’t do that.
If you get a call like this stay calm and keep your wits about you. As I said above, the best way to deal with these calls is to hang up. Don’t engage them, don’t get angry, don’t get worried because honestly there’s nothing to worry about. They’re scams, and they want your money. Hang up and end the problem then and there.