Recently, I spoke with two clients who were almost victims of a pervasive telephone scam involving a person posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent. In each instance, the caller demanded immediate same-day payment of thousands of dollars in order to prevent drastic enforcement measures as a result of alleged tax debts. In one instance, the perpetrator actually threatened criminal arrest if the money was not paid the same day. Luckily, in both instances the wannabe IRS agents failed in their attempted swindle as reasonable questions from both of my clients yielded answers that were both hostile and suspicious.
In a recent public notice, the IRS issued a consumer alert giving taxpayers additional tips to avoid these telephone scams. The typical scam described in the alert is similar to that experienced by my clients. In these situations, the scammer may know your name and address, and possibly other personal details such as the last four digits of the victim’s social security number. Their caller ID may contain a false descriptor that references the IRS in some way. In almost all instances, very serious enforcement actions – such as bank account levies or criminal arrest – will be threatened. To avoid such consequences, the scammer seeks payment through some fast payment system, such as a temporary debit card or wire transfer.
In the recent alert, the IRS reminded taxpayers of the following five things the IRS will never do:
1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If in doubt about an alleged communication from the IRS, you can always call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 to ask more questions. If you do receive a scam call, you can also file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant. Just follow that line, choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.