Watch out for phone scammers this tax season! These scammers are con-artists calling innocent people to try and intimidate them into sending money. Scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other repercussions. If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS and continues with aggressive threats following your refusal to pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email or phone.
These callers may demand money or state you have a refund due, and try to trick the victim into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing and might already have personal information about the person.
Here are five things scammers often do, but the IRS will not do. Any one of these is a tell-tale sign of a scam:
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or tigta.gov.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also 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.
Also, remember that the IRS does not use email, text messages, or social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds.
Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing With Identity Theft
In the last three years, the IRS has seen a substantial increase in the number of identity theft returns filed. Criminals are stealing social security numbers and electronically filing bogus tax returns at the start of tax season before the taxpayer has a chance to file. The taxpayer may not know it has happened to them until months later when they go to file themselves.
The IRS will notify you if a return has already been filed in your name and the next step would be to call them immediately. A hotline at the IRS exists for taxpayers to call directly if they have questions or are victims. That number is 800-908-4490. For more information on what else you can do to prevent, detect, and work through identity theft, explore this online resource center.