How to spot phony IRS scams

If you were to receive an out-of-the-blue phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, what would you do? If they said you owed back taxes, and they needed to verify your personal information, such as your full name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number, would you give it to them?

The IRS notes that crooks and scam artists continue to target US citizens, non-citizens, and residents, by phone, email, and text.  The agency is also urging people to stay vigilant, so they can avoid becoming a victim.  Consequently, they’re asking you to make note of the following:

The IRS typically initiates contact by mail

According to their website:

The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • When a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill
  • To secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or
  • To tour a business, for example, as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive a letter or sometimes more than one letter, often called notices, from the IRS in the mail.

Be wary of telephone scams

Scammers are often convincing, and in some cases, they’ll call using a “spoofed” Caller ID number that appears as if the call has been initiated by the IRS.  They also provide fake names and falsified IRS badge numbers.

One of the telltale signs that you’re being contacted by a fraudster, is that the caller often demands that a specific, down to the cent payment be made immediately via prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or gift card.  According to the IRS website,  “The IRS will not ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. For people who owe taxes, make payments to the U.S. Treasury or review for IRS online options.”

Additionally, the IRS does not and will not threaten to send the police, immigration officials, or other law enforcement agencies to a person’s home or workplace for not making an immediate payment.  “The IRS also cannot revoke a license or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into believing their schemes.”

If you get a call from the IRS, be suspicious.  If you think in any way that the call may be legitimate, hang up and call the IRS main phone line at 800-829-1040.