Don’t Fall For the IRS Phone Scam

23049190_mIf you get a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, hang up, no matter how convincing they sound or what kind of threats they make. The IRS almost never calls people on the phone, and they won’t be emailing you either. Although the IRS issued its original warning about the phone scam in October, 2013, it is still going strong. The agency has received more than 90,000 complaints about the calls and victims have lost over $5 million.

The Scam

So, it goes something like this. The scammers call people and tell them they owe money to the IRS and that they are going to go to jail, be deported, or lose their driver’s license. They may say you are being charged with defrauding the government and that your assets are going to be frozen.

But, and this is the key, you can put an end to the problem if you send money right away, via a prepaid credit card or wire transfer. When victims refuse or argue, the callers are often hostile and even swear at them.

In some cases the scammers have detailed information about the victims that make them sound legitimate. They are also known to “spoof” the caller ID so it shows a real IRS phone number, making the call seem real.

How to Recognize the Fraudulent Calls

  • The first red flag is getting a phone call at all. The IRS normally contacts people by mail to start a dialog about unpaid taxes.
  • The callers often have a foreign accent, but also choose very generic American names, or names of movie characters.
  • The scammers ask for a specific type of payment, such as Green Dot cards. The IRS will not ask you to use a specific payment method and will not ask you to give credit or debit card information over the phone.
  • The scammers may threaten to have you picked up by local law enforcement. The IRS doesn’t work that way.
  • The scammers do not give you the opportunity to question, verify, or appeal the amount they say you owe. The IRS does not simply demand immediate payment. There is a process for people who are unsure or disagree with the amount the IRS says they owe.
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