Each year, thousands of taxpayers fall victim to scammers claiming to be the IRS. In many cases, these con artists will call and demand immediate payment for taxes you may or may not actually owe. They will threaten you with arrest, deportation, or revocation of your license if you don’t comply and pay them ASAP. Do not fall for these unscrupulous tactics. Follow our tips on how to spot IRS phone scams and what to do if you think your information may have been compromised.
How to Spot an IRS Phone Scam
Thanks to technology, scammers can easily spoof a phone number. This may give you a false sense of security, especially if you recognize the number. The scammers may even know your name, address, or other personal information. There are, however, some glaring clues that the person on the other end is not the IRS.
- Urgent or time-sensitive message
- Threats of arrest, deportation, or license revocation
- Demand for immediate payment by a specific method
- Requests for checks made out to third parties
It’s a common practice for scammers to create a sense of urgency and threaten to involve the authorities if you do not pay them immediately. In many cases, they’ll ask you to send in the payment through wire transfer, gift cards, or checks made out to someone other than the IRS. This is a huge red flag. The IRS will never ask for your credit or debit card information over the phone. They will also never demand payment without allowing you to question or appeal the amount owed.
If someone calls claiming to be the IRS, ask for their name and employee ID. Let them know that you’ll be contacting the IRS to confirm their identity. Do not provide any personal information and end the call.
Steps to Take If You Think You’re Being Scammed
You should never return a phone call from someone who left a message claiming to be the IRS. Instead, call the IRS directly at either the mainline for individuals (800-829-1040) or businesses (800-829-4933). You should also take these additional steps if you are contacted by someone pretending to be the IRS.
- Hang up immediately. Do not provide any personal information, such as your Social Security number or identity protection PIN.
- Report phone scams by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam.”
- If you don’t owe taxes, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 to report the call, or visit Treasury.gov and complete the online scam reporting form.
- Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission by using the online form on FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Phone Scam” in the notes.
If you owe taxes, you can also view your tax account online. It will include your payment history, payoff amount, and balance owed. This is the easiest and fastest way to verify you have a balance with the IRS.
Although IRS phone scams tend to increase during tax season, scammers never take a vacation. They can attempt to steal your information at any time. The best way to protect your personal information and not fall victim to tax fraud is to keep up with the ever-growing list of active tax scams. Take a look at the “IRS Dirty Dozen” for 2021.