I recently received a call from a lady identifying herself as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service. She said I owed a large sum of money to the IRS in back taxes and that if I did not pay up, I would find myself being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that I could possibly go to prison. The “agent” spoke with an accent. I noticed that the call source readout on my cell phone indicated that the call was coming from Texas. I then said to the caller, “You sound like a lady who is actually a pretty good person. Why would you allow yourself to become involved in this scamming stuff? Why”?
The caller insisted that she was with the IRS. I asked her why she was calling from Texas? She said she wasn’t calling from Texas but, of course, would not tell me from which city she was calling. She then abruptly hung up.
Phone scams pose a serious threat to taxpayers and remain on the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams. A news release from the IRS this year had a warning about phone scams. The article stated that scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
The news release lists some things the scammers often do, but the IRS will not do. The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- 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 taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Call you about an unexpected refund.
The IRS also cautions taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do to:
- Not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
The news release concludes by warning all of us that tax scams can happen any time of the year and not just at tax time. For more information, you can visit Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts on IRS.gov.
Donald Bays, CPA, ABV, CVA, CFF