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Watch for phone scammers claiming to be IRS

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The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, approximately 1,100 victims have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail.”

Koskinen continued, “A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate.

“People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

It is important for taxpayers to remember that the IRS:

• Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.

• Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations

• Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation.

Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS, or they are entitled to big refunds.

When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of these scams include:

• Using fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

• May be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

• Spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

• 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.

Taxpayers who know they owe taxes or you think they might owe taxes and receive this call are asked to call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.

Those who don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that they owe any taxes should report the incident to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

Anyone targeted by this scam 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 the complaint.

Visit www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box for more details.