If you got a call from the IRS recently, you may worry and ask the logical question: Why is the IRS calling me? Don’t worry. The IRS never calls to collect taxes. And yet this IRS scam seems to get bigger and bigger targeting more and more people.
The scammers take advantage of our concern that a government agency like the IRS may swoop down on us. They understand that a call from the IRS stirs up the same sort of feelings you get when you spot a blue light flashing in your rearview mirror when you’re driving on the highway. It’s scary and intimidating.
These scammers call people in every part of the country. They can sound pretty convincing. They demand payment for taxes that you probably don’t owe, and ask you to wire the money immediately or put it on a pre-paid card.
Often the caller ID will say IRS. That’s as fake as the phony badge number the caller gives you. Just hang up.
The problem is so serious that more than 50,000 people took the time to complain to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2014, and those complaints went up 24 percent from the previous year.
The IRS suggests 5 tell-tale signs the call is a scam:
- The IRS doesn’t call demand payment. They mail a bill.
- The IRS doesn’t threaten or pressure. It gives you the opportunity to question and appeal the amount that it says you owe.
- The IRS doesn’t require you to use a specific payment method to pay taxes. It wouldn’t ask you to wire, or use a pre-paid card.
- The IRS doesn’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- The IRS doesn’t threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says, “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.