You may encounter something even scarier than Halloween today. The IRS is warning about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers around the country. The scammers tell people that they owe money to the IRS and that it must be paid immediately using a debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, the scammer threatens them with arrest, suspension of a business or driver’s license, or in the case of immigrant victims, deportation.
The IRS reports that these are other characteristics of the scam:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers.
- They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get any calls claiming to be from the IRS, here is what the IRS advises you do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
Information on how to report phising scams involving the IRS is available here. If you have experienced this phone scam, comment below with advice for our readers.