Why You Should Hang Up if You Get a Call From the ‘IRS’

Scammers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service have duped taxpayers out of $5 million so far.

The most recent IRS phone scam is raking in some big numbers: 90,000 complaints to the Treasury Inspector General’s Office and more than $5 million bilked from 1,100 victims.

Consumers were first warned of the IRS scam in October, CNN Money said. Unfortunately, the con artists have continued to be wildly successful in cheating taxpayers out of their money.

“Some fraudsters tell victims they owe money and will be in big trouble if they don’t pay immediately, while others tell taxpayers they are owed big refunds and they simply need to provide their personal information — like a bank account number — to claim those sums of money,” CNN Money said.

Sometimes the scam works like this: Scammers posing as IRS agents call taxpayers, claiming that they owe the IRS money. Then, according to Forbes:

Taxpayers are told that they must pay the balance promptly using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer or be subject to punishment, including arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. The callers may have heavy foreign accents, use common names and fake badge numbers. The number on the caller ID may also look like the IRS since the scammers may spoof the IRS toll-free number.

The fake IRS agents sometimes turn hostile during the call and may even use threatening language, something that a legitimate IRS employee would never do. According to CNN Money:

“[The] first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment.”

Forbes said other red flags include:

  • Credit card information. The IRS never asks for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone.
  • Payment method. The IRS does not demand that taxpayers use a specific payment method, like a prepaid card, when paying owed taxes.
  • Listen closely. “You may hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site,” Forbes said.

We first told you about this scam five months ago. At that time, victims reported losses totaling $1 million. “This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said in March.

If you believe you’re received a suspicious IRS request, you’re urged to hang up and contact the IRS immediately.

Have you received any fishy calls from the “IRS” or been a victim of another scam? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Mary Benson

    We received a phone call several months ago, on our answering machine, when we lived in AZ from a man identifying himself as “Franklin Benjamin” (Now that IS funny) and saying that we owed money for back taxes. The man made it sound urgent that we return his phone call and left us a phone number to respond to. We did NOT call back but put the name and number away so that we could report it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we were in the process of packing up to move and never got around to taking care of reporting it to the proper authorities. I do think we still have the number somewhere and hope to find it at some point. By then, it will probably be too late for the authorities to do anything with it!

  • Bill White

    This happened to me a few weeks ago. A lady calling herself Officer Jessica Rowland left me a voicemail saying I needed to return her call at the number 202 629-9767. Luckily I didn’t answer the cal. When I called the IRS at their actual number to see what they wanted, and waiting on hold for an hour, they said they would have given an ID number if it was them that called.

  • speaksthetruth

    The IRS do not call people. They send letters, but they NEVER call. Any calls from the is a scam.

  • If these people call you and give a return call number, you can report the fraud at this site: http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

  • I always do a reverse phone number look up. You can usually see what other people have to say about the number. Depending on their responses, I will decide if I want to call back or not.

  • Carla

    I received many calls from these scammers and I have actually called them back and tormented them until they admitted they were scamming people out of thousands of dollars. At first I acted like I was so afraid of what they were telling me and just at the point where they started asking for my personal bank information, I flipped it on the guy (who btw had a heavy Indian accent) and called him back for 3 days straight. I was relentless and kept hitting redial on my phone until they answered me. Unfortunately you never can (or I couldn’t anyway) get a live person at the IRS so I wasn’t able to report it. AND the caller ID on my phone came up ILLEGAL SCAM lol!!

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