How Do You Know If an IRS Call Is a Scam?

When a taxpayer gets a call demanding immediate tax payment without first receiving a bill in the mail, it's a scam, reports the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS doesn't require specific payment methods, ask for personal financial information over the phone or threaten taxpayers with arrest for nonpayment of taxes.

Phone scams by aggressive criminals threatening reprisals on taxpayers who don't immediately send payments have become very common as of 2015, according to the IRS. The criminals target vulnerable taxpayers such as the elderly, immigrants and those who don't speak English well. They manipulate Caller ID and use fake names and badge numbers to pretend to be IRS agents. However, the IRS doesn't push taxpayers for immediate tax payment without allowing them a chance to appeal or question the bill. Additionally, the IRS doesn't demand that taxpayers use prepaid debit cards rather than other payment methods.

If someone claiming to be from the IRS calls and threatens taxpayers with arrest or deportation if they don't pay their taxes immediately, taxpayers shouldn't give in to their threats, warns the IRS. Instead, taxpayers should give no personal information and ask the callers for their employee badge numbers and a call-back number. They should then hang up, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and request the help of genuine IRS agents. Taxpayers also can file scam complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, advises the FTC.

Scammers can sound persuasive, explains the IRS. They change caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling and supply fake names and fake badge numbers. Scammers often tell taxpayers they have refunds due or try to get them to share personal data.