I’d like to think I’m a pretty savvy person, but those phone calls saying, “This is your last warning. The IRS is issuing a warrant for your arrest …” leave me rattled. I get them regularly these days (perhaps since taxes are on everyone’s mind as April 15th looms), and the government says this is one of the most prevalent scams out there.
In 2018, scammers collected $488 million from consumers—often older ones.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers—often older ones—let almost $488 million slip into the hands of imposters, largely ones pretending they’re from the government—in 2018.
These fraudsters are clever enough to offer their (bogus) IRS badge and case numbers; they may know the last four digits of your social security number; and they have even found ways to make it look as if their calls are coming from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) department of the IRS! It’s enough to destroy your faith in humanity.
Stopping the Scammers
But don’t let them destroy your finances. Here’s what you need to know:
The IRS will never:
- Phone you to demand you pay immediately with a wire transfer or prepaid debit or gift card. Usually, the IRS mails a bill first if a taxpayer is in arrears.
- Ask for a credit card or debit card number over the phone.
- Use scare tactics like saying the police will come and arrest you for non-payment of taxes.
- Require payment without giving you the opportunity to review or appeal the amount owed.
- Call you with “good news” about an unexpected refund, which is another popular scam lately.
So what to do if you, like me, keep getting these calls? While you may be tempted to buy an air horn to blast into the scammer’s ears (or is that just me?), the best advice is to hang up ASAP. The more you engage with the scammer, the more he or she will think the door is open to worming some money out of you.
Then report the fraud to firstname.lastname@example.org, putting IRS Phone Scam in the subject line. You can also contact the Treasury General Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call at 1-800-366-4484.