The IRS recently warned seniors about the threat of scam phone calls from criminals hoping to capitalize on the urgency of tax season. IRS Commissioner Koskinen noted that criminals making these calls can become aggressive, often resorting to insults and threats of imprisonment when targets do not comply with their requests for private information or payment.
What do the scammers do?
The scammer tries to pass off as a legitimate IRS agent, often providing a fake name and badge number – possibly discussing some private information about the taxpayer that has already been collected to help maintain the façade. Once the fake identity is established, the scammer informs the taxpayer of a tax bill that must be immediately payed by “preloaded debit card or wire transfer.” If the taxpayer is hesitant or starts to indicate that she will not pay the bill, the scammer will become hostile and begin issuing threats.
What should you do?
Here’s the short answer from Koskinen: “Just hang up.” The IRS will never use those kinds of aggressive, fear-mongering tactics to coerce a taxpayer to pay, nor will the four authorized collection agencies slated to begin contacting taxpayers later in the spring.
To keep taxpayers informed about those agencies, the IRS provided the following bulleted lists containing information about tax collection and what to do in the event of one of these calls:
“The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.”
Source: Internal Revenue Service