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Apr 7, 201411:25 AMSmall Business, Big Ideas

with Jean Willard

Watch for tax-related phone fraud and email scams

(page 1 of 2)

The IRS will never call you to ask for your credit card number and never threaten to take your driver’s license, but nasty scam artists pretending to be from the IRS will — and are.

The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) has issued a warning to taxpayers to beware of unsolicited phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the IRS in an effort to defraud them. TIGTA has received reports of more than 20,000 calls and has become aware of thousands of victims who have collectively paid more than $1 million as a result of the scam. 

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have seen,” says J. Russell George, the treasury inspector general. “The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming. At all times, and particularly during the tax-filing season, we want to make sure innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals.” 

Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation, or loss of a business or driver’s license. However, the IRS generally contacts people by mail, not by phone, about unpaid taxes; will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer; and will not ask for a credit card number over the phone. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” George says.

Callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment:

  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with any questions.
  • If you do not owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.


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