IRS Phone Scams
Most taxpayers are understandably wary of learning there may be a problem with their annual tax return. Preying on this vulnerability, some criminals have developed phone scams in which they pretend to be IRS agents in hopes of stealing money or valuable information from their targets. These impostors can be quite persuasive, using threats and intimidation to convince people that they represent the IRS. People lose millions of dollars a year due to these scam artists’ tactics, but you can avoid falling for them if you know what to watch for.
How to Spot an IRS Phone Scam
Usually, if you owe taxes, are under audit or there is an issue with your tax return, the IRS will first reach out to you by mailing you a notice or a bill delivered through the USPS. If you get an unexpected call, email or text message from someone claiming to be an employee of the IRS or another federal agency like the FDIC, you’re right to be skeptical.
Here are some other telltale phone scam tactics you can look out for.
- Threatening to revoke your Social Security number, driver’s license or immigration status
- Asking you to provide your credit or debit card number over the phone
- Requesting private information such as your birthdate, mother’s maiden name or other sensitive details criminals can use to commit identity theft
- Saying they can have you arrested for supposedly owing back taxes
- Demanding you pay without giving you a chance to ask questions or appeal the amount
- Spoofing the number that appears on your caller ID so it looks like it’s coming from an official source
- Calling to ask you to use a specific payment method like a prepaid gift card or debit card
What to Do If You Are the Target of a Tax Scam
The IRS encourages everyone to stay aware of these unethical tactics to avoid becoming a phone scam victim. If you receive a frightening or suspicious call from someone who says they represent the IRS, write down the number and immediately hang up. Then, you can report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration through their website or by calling 800-366-4484. You can also email email@example.com with “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.
Remember, the IRS will never request that you send money to any source other than the U.S. Treasury. If you missed the tax deadline and still owe, contact the IRS about how to file back taxes correctly.
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