November 4, 2013

You may have heard of companies that ask for money up front and claim they’ll convince the IRS to forgive all of your taxes.

But did you know some scammers are claiming to be IRS employees and telling innocent victims they’ll be arrested, deported, or lose their drivers’ licenses if they don’t pay their taxes over the phone?

New IRS Telephone Scam

Last week, the IRS warned taxpayers of this latest ruse and suggested ways to protect themselves from a scamming industry that continues to use fake emails, caller IDs, and websites to steal people’s money.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel last week. “We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.”

In this recent phone scam, the scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on the victim’s caller ID. If the victims don’t pay these fake IRS employees, they are threatened with jail time, deportation or license revocation. After that call, other scammers once again use faux caller IDs and pretend to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” said Werfel.

Protecting Yourself from IRS Phone Scams

The great G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.” So to protect yourself from these scams, you should know that if there were a tax issue, the IRS says it would most likely contact you first via regular mail, not by phone. If you’re not sure if you were contacted in the mail and get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, you should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS says employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

If you have no reason to believe you owe any taxes, then the IRS says you should call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. You can also report this scam to the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Protecting Yourself from Electronic Scams, or Phishing

Scammers also use unsolicited email and websites that pose as legitimate sites to get personal and financial information in a process known as “phishing.” To keep yourself safe, know that the IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to request your financial information. If you get an email from the IRS that asks for your personal or financial information, don’t open any attachments and don’t click on any links in it. Instead, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

To learn more about phishing, check out this page from the real IRS.