When you answer your phone, don’t believe anybody who claims to be from the IRS -— especially one who demands you cough up some dough, or else. There really might be federal employees who think you nibbled at the truth on your tax return, but they aren’t calling. Con artists are.
So, the tax agency’s advice is: Don’t talk to them; they are looking to scam you big time. It seems like common sense to just hang up, but many people don’t.
Many, many people.
The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have received 90,000 complaints from people who have been called by these crooks. And, according to an Aug. 13 IRS news release, 1,100 victims have lost $5 million.
“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
Further, the IRS would never do what the con artists do. Nobody from the IRS would ask you for credit or debit card or prepaid card info. Similarly, IRS employees wouldn’t insist taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations. IRS workers would not ask for PINs, passwords or other personal information.
The IRS never requests immediate payment over the telephone and would not threaten to take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
Con artists have two tools that serve them well: Fear and greed. If they can scare you or make you think you’ve got money coming, they’ve got you.
So don’t be had.
“Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy,” the IRS stated in its release.
Some of the other characteristics of these cons include:
Callers use fake, usually common, names and surnames and IRS badge numbers. They might 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.
In an email to the Northeast Times, IRS spokeswoman Jenny Jenkins wrote that she has fielded calls from eastern Pennsylvania residents.
“They had received suspicious-sounding calls from someone who identified himself as an IRS employee,” she wrote. “They said the man who called them had foreign-sounding accent, and that he threatened consequences if they didn’t immediately pay the amount he said they owed.”
Besides telling these people how to contact the IRS, she advised them to call their local law enforcement agencies to get the word out about the scams.
Anyone who knows taxes are owed and gets one or more of these calls, according to the IRS, should call the agency’s hotline, 1-800-829-1040, to get real help.
If you know you don’t owe, or the caller made some bogus threats, then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use it “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov, and add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box. ••