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

Why You Should Hang Up if You Get a Call From the ‘IRS’
Photo (cc) by Tim G. Photography

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.

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