Ask Stacy: The FBI and IRS Are Calling Me — What Should I Do?

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Welcome to “Ask Stacy,” a short video feature answering money questions submitted by readers and viewers. You can learn how to send in a question of your own below.

If you’re not typically a video watcher, give it a try. These are short and painless, and you’ll learn something valuable. But if you really can’t deal with video, no problem: Just scroll down this page for the full transcript, as well as some reader resources.

Today’s question is about what to do if you get an unexpected call from a government agency — like the IRS or FBI — requesting personal information or threatening to have you arrested. Has it happened to you yet? If it does, here’s exactly what you should do.

For more information on this topic, check out “The IRS Is Calling! Here’s What to Do” and “8 Tips to Stop Annoying Robocalls” You can also go to the search at the top of this page, put in the words “rip-off” and find plenty of information on avoiding just about every kind of skulduggery under the sun.

Got a question of your own to ask? Scroll down past the transcript and fire away!

Can’t watch? Here’s the video transcript

Stacy Johnson: Hello, and welcome to your money Q & A question of the day. I’m your host, Stacy Johnson, and this question is brought to you by, serving up the best in personal finance news and advice since 1991.

Here’s today’s question. It is from Andrea. Here’s what Andrea says: “I received a call from someone claiming to be from the FBI (who) started off reading a bunch of numbers. I would not answer their questions. Does the FBI call people? There’s no reason for me to receive a call. We are retired and collecting Social Security.”

This is a really common thing, and I know a lot of people watching this are going to go, like, “Well, of course the FBI doesn’t call.” But you know what, you guys? This happens to unsuspecting people every single day.

The answer to your question, Andrea, is, no, that call wasn’t from the FBI. There’s also a lot of people who claim to be from the IRS that are calling people on the phone. Generally speaking, if you’re going to be contacted by the IRS, or by the FBI, it is not going to be on a phone call, and it is certainly not going to be in a threatening phone call. The FBI is never going to call you up and tell you that if you don’t send them money, you’re going to jail, or there’s an arrest warrant that’s been issued, or anything like that. Neither will the IRS.

Frankly, neither one of these agencies even contact people by phone, generally, or by email. You’ll get a letter from the IRS — I don’t know about the FBI — or, you’ll get a knock on the door. Immediately hang up if you get a call like that.

By the way, you guys, for those of you who are more sophisticated and don’t understand why people would think this way, if you have an older neighbor — or a relative, someone that you feel might succumb to something like this — reach out there and help them, because this is just terrible. There’s a special place in hell for people who do this to people, but there are a lot of them out there. Trust me. I’ve seen it.

Sorry, I digress. Andrea, number one, the FBI doesn’t call people threatening arrest. Neither does the IRS.

Number two, when in doubt, just hang up. If you really think the FBI wants you for some reason, hang up the phone and call the FBI and ask them. You’ll find out right away. Same with the IRS. What you’ll probably find out is that was a fraudster calling you.

And number three — and this is really important — when you guys get a call like this, don’t respond in any way. Hang up, because if you respond, you’re just going to get on a list, and you’re going to be called again and again and again.

One of the worst stories, the saddest stories, I’ve ever done was a little old lady who was being harassed. She had sent $5,000 or something in order to claim a prize in a sweepstakes, and while I was at her house shooting a television news story with the police, she got 60 calls. I mean, it was just crazy.

What’s happening whenever you respond — you hit a number, you yell, you curse, you say “no,” you say “yes”– [is that] you’ve just proved that your phone number’s valid. You haven’t helped yourself, you’ve made it worse. When somebody calls you — a robocall, anything like that — bam, hang up immediately. Not a word. OK, you got that? Andrea, I hope that helps.

I hope you have the most profitable of days, and I’ll see you here next time!

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

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