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The Internal Revenue Service has posted repeated warnings about tax phone frauds, in which criminals call consumers pretending to be agents from the I.R.S. The impostors claim the taxpayer owes back taxes, then threaten arrest or legal action, unless the individual makes a payment quickly. Sometimes victims are urged to wire money, but more commonly they are directed to obtain a prepaid money card at a retailer and provide the number to the caller.
The callers are aggressive, they are relentless and they are ruthless, “This call is officially a final notice from the I.R.S., Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that I.R.S. is filing a lawsuit against you.”
The callers strive to appear authentic; they may use robocalling technology that shows “I.R.S.” on your caller identification screen. They may know part or all of your Social Security number and they may provide a fake I.R.S. “badge” number. In some cases, follow-up calls may come, supposedly from local police or prosecutors.
But the telephone call itself, is the first tipoff that the call is bogus. The I.R.S. does not initiate contact through phone or email, but rather sends written correspondence through the United States mail.
Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know 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.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, 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.
• 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 TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
• You can file a complaint by the internet using the FTC Complaint Assistant (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov); choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.