The 5 Signs of an IRS Phone Scam

Tax filing season is fast approaching and with that will come another barrage of attempts at tax return fraud. The attacks on your information and your refund continue at an alarming rate. To help prevent becoming a victim, it’s crucial you stay aware of possible scams and safeguard your personal information. A common scam that startles tens of thousands of us each year is receiving a call from an IRS impersonator.

Phone scams reappeared on the IRS’ 2017 “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams, an annual list that outlines the top 12 fraudulent tax schemes and scams that taxpayers may be exposed to throughout the year. IRS phone scams are made by con artists out to steal your tax refund or convince you to send them money. (For more, see: Tax Scams: The IRS Doesn’t Make Phone Calls.)

Caller ID Spoofing Is Convincing 

With the advent of caller ID spoofing, these con artists can even look like they are calling from the IRS. These impersonators may be aggressive and threatening in an attempt to convince you to act now (“You must wire us $2,000 today or you will be arrested.”) Alternatively, they may call with great news that you’re entitled to a large refund and try to collect sensitive personal information from you (“You need to confirm your Social Security number and bank account information before I can deposit this refund.”)

5 Signs of an IRS Phone Scam

  1. The IRS will not threaten you with police arrest, deportation or license revocation.

  2. The IRS will not demand immediate payment.

  3. You should know ahead of time if you might owe taxes or be receiving a refund. The IRS will not call about income tax being owed without sending a letter first to acknowledge it.

  4. The IRS will not demand that you pay income tax owed without the opportunity for you to appeal the decision.

  5. The IRS does not ask for credit card numbers, nor do they ask for a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

Report Scamming When It Happens

If someone calls claiming to represent the IRS, you should tell the caller you need to call them back. Most IRS representatives will understand and give you a number to call back. A scammer might retaliate with threats or just hang up the phone. If you do receive a call-back number, do your research first.

Remember the tell-tale signs of an IRS phone scam. If someone calls claiming to represent the IRS, ask the caller questions that an impostor might not be able to answer. If your gut tells you you’re being scammed, report it. Remember, Uncle Sam just wants your tax dollars. The guy on the other end of the phone could be trying to get a lot more than that. (For more from this author, see: 2 Charitable Tax Planning Strategies for Year-End.)