Beware of calls from IRS impersonators this filing season

Tax-FraudThe Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) is reminding taxpayers to beware of phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the IRS in an effort to defraud them.

Since October 2013, the TIGTA has received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts and has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have collectively paid over $14 million as a result of a widespread scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.

The scam has hit taxpayers in every State in the country. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with immediate arrest, deportation, or loss of a business or driver’s license.

The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone. So, if someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.

The callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Utilize an automated robocall machine.
  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • May know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
  • Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040.  IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.treasury.gov/tigta or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov.  Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

TIGTA and the IRS encourage taxpayers to be alert for phone and e-mail scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, texting, or any social media. You should forward scam e-mails to phishing@irs.gov.  Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes winner) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.