How Do You Spot an IRS Phone Scam?


Quick Answer

Aggressive phone calls from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service when taxpayers have not first received official correspondence by mail are scams, reports the IRS. Additionally, the IRS does not request payment information over the phone, demand a certain method of payment or threaten immediate enforcement action.

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Full Answer

IRS phone scammers often target vulnerable people such as the elderly, immigrants and those who do not speak English well, warns the IRS. They claim to be from the IRS, sometimes have IRS caller ID, and supply false names and IRS badge numbers. The scammers accuse taxpayers of defrauding the government and not paying taxes and threaten them with lawsuits and arrest if they do not make immediate payment via prepaid debit cards, according to the FBI. Sometimes they demand that taxpayers give them credit or debit card information over the phone, adds the IRS.

When the IRS needs to remind taxpayers of payments owed, it sends bills by postal mail and does not initiate contact by phone or email, explains the IRS. The IRS also gives taxpayers time to question or appeal a tax bill. When taxpayers receive threatening phone calls supposedly from the IRS, they should give the callers no personal or financial information, advises the Federal Trade Commission. After getting the names and ID numbers of the callers, taxpayers should hang up and call the IRS directly. They should report scams to the Federal Trade Commission or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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