“Hello, this is the IRS, we’re calling about the account of Your Name and the taxes you owe. Please remit payment or there will be legal consequences.” – This is not the IRS, this is a scam.
A scary scam that dupes hundreds of Americans each year. If you get a call like this, hang up and do not give out any information.
Over the last couple years, the IRS has sent out numerous warnings about phone tax scams. An impersonator claims to be an IRS agent calling to notify you of an error that resulted in a tax bill. Then, the caller demands immediate payment or threatens you with arrest.
Since late 2013, more than 5,000 victims have been tricked into paying $26.5 million according to the Service. We need to point out that the IRS will never call you without first mailing you a tax bill. Recently, National Public Radio shared what these types of calls actually sounds like.
Pindrop Security, a firm that investigates phone fraud, recorded a call with a presumed victim. Phone metadata indicated the call came from a Seattle suburb, but this probably did not come up on caller id because tools can easily hide the caller’s actual physical location.
Do your duty to your neighbors and fellow countrymen and start reporting scams to IRS. Want some more information about when and how to report scams? Read Below.
Three Red Flags
If you receive a call out of the blue regarding a tax bill, be skeptical. The scam plays on fears and sounds real, because the amount of back taxes is usually less than $2,000.
But the IRS never does any of the following three things.
- In the first part of the recording the purported IRS agent threatens that local law enforcement has an arrest warrant and will arrive soon. The IRS does not make these kinds of threats.
- As the call goes on, the call center operator asks for cash to pay the outstanding tax bill of $1,986.73. The IRS does not demand immediate cash payment.
- The caller asks that payment be sent to an individual person in Boston. IRS payment requests go through processing centers.
Even in circumstances when you can verify that a caller is an IRS agent, you should not deal with the agent on your own. Similar to a criminal investigation, what you say can be twisted and later used against you.
When you owe significant back taxes, contact a tax resolution attorney who can assist with an installment agreement or offer in compromise.
Know the Common Scams
First of all – the IRS isn’t an evil organization. They state, in plain language, on their website that they will never conduct “angry shake-down calls.” So if you get a call demanding money “or else” you can pretty much assume it’s a scam.
But that’s not the only kind of scam people carry out. Here are some common scam types that catch people off guard.
The “Immediate Payment” Call
Like we said above, the IRS isn’t going to call you demanding money. And if they do choose to call you, they’ll give you as much information as you need to understand the charges.
If you get a call from someone demanding immediate payment, ask yourself if you’ve received an official IRS bill. If you haven’t, then the IRS has no reason to call you.
The IRS’s first line of communication is official mail, so make sure your address is up to date with your local post office. An out-of-date address is one sure way to be late on paying your taxes.
They Answer No Questions
Let’s say you do owe some taxes or back taxes and you get a call. The person on the other end of the phone is trying to convince you that you need to pay now (again, a sign this call is fake).
If you didn’t know it was fake when they asked you for money over the phone, ask them to explain why you owe these taxes. The real IRS has years of data and can pull up your account.
A scammer has nothing but their wit – and they can be cunning. But they can’t produce true records of things only the IRS can know.
Rest assured that the IRS will always let you know why you owe something and be able to pull records that show it. Demand proof and if they can’t come up with it – hang up.
Then follow the reporting process detailed at the end of this article.
The “Amazing Refund” Scam
This is a scam that hits consumers both ways. You’ll either get a call or an email promising that this “tax professional” can get you a huge refund.
They say they can do this in a multitude of ways. Maybe they claim that you’re not claiming all your allowances. Maybe they say that they know legal loopholes that can get you more money.
This is obviously a scam call. No tax professional worth their certification would call clients and blindly offer services, let alone mass promise results.
The IRS is not a careless organization. If there are loopholes, they know about them and they’ll get closed ASAP.
What’s the harm in giving these people your business, you ask? They’re just looking to get your sensitive information. They may tell you they’ve filed your taxes and just take your identity – without filing anything.
Then you’d really be in trouble – late on your taxes and having your identity stolen.
Don’t fall for it. The only person who should see your taxes and the sensitive information on them is a true professional. One that has reviews and a recommendation in your town.
Do not give these criminals any information and hang up the phone. Note the phone number and follow the reporting instructions below.
They Ask for Payment Over the Phone
The IRS will never, we repeat, never ask for you to remit payment over the phone. It’s not a secure way to make payments and the IRS doesn’t want to process insecure payments.
If you get a phone call demanding you give a card number over the phone, hang up. That’s a scammer and not the IRS.
They Threaten Further Action
Finally, the IRS is not going to send a police officer to your work or home to collect funds. That’s not how they do things. The police have enough on their plate, even if you do truly owe taxes or back taxes.
If you get a call that claims they’ll take legal action if you don’t pay right now – that’s a scam. The fact that they want to take your payment over the phone is the first sign.
How to Report Tax Scams
Now that you know a few things to look out for – here’s what to do if you get one of these scam calls.
Step 1: Give Out No Information
Do not give these scammers anything they’re looking for. You may hang up right away and ignore further calls. It takes you a minute to figure out this is a scam – note what you’ve already told them.
Step 2: Gather What You Know
Write down the phone number, a brief description of the scam, and when it happened.
Then take yourself to the secure site (you’ll see it says https://) FTC Complaint Assistant. There you’ll find a menu that gives you the choice to report “scams and rip-offs.”
Give them all the information you know and file the complaint.
Step 3: Get Help
Did you get swindled by the fake IRS and now are in trouble with the real one? You need a lawyer to help you out of this bind.
You didn’t mean to do anything wrong – in fact, you thought you were doing everything right.
There are people here for you, that can help get your life back to normal.
Reporting Scams to IRS: Your Civic Duty
Whether it’s over the phone or over email, you have a duty to report scams to the government. Doing so could save not-so-savvy American money and stress in the future.
Not worried about reporting scams to IRS but more worried about paying your own taxes? Get a free case evaluation here.