If you got a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, you'd be suspicious, right? But what if the phone rang and you checked CallerID and it read, IRS. Then when you take the call and the person gives you a name and a badge number, maybe you'd be a little less skeptical. Or maybe you're like Jata Goldberry, single father and primary caregiver for his disabled mom. He got a call from a man who said, he owed the IRS $11,000. He warned that Goldberry had to pay $1000 in the next 15 minutes or Sheriff's would find him, at his job or at his home and put him in jail. Goldberry panicked. He was told, the IRS wouldn't accept a credit or debit card. He had to go get a Moneypak card that would wire transfer money to the "IRS." Fearing he'd lose his job and wind up in prison for up to three years, he wired all the cash he had on him, $200 with the promise he'd send more.
Meantime, he was trying to find a way to pay his supposed debt; when his aunt asked if he'd gotten the "IRS agent's" badge number. Goldberry called the man to ask for a badge number. He hung up. But still worried, he kept calling until he got a badge number, then he called the IRS, the REAL IRS and was told… "You have a zero balance." The real IRS says Goldberry is the victim of a scam that has hit taxpayers in nearly every state. The typical victims is a new immigrant who might be familiar with our tax system. And, if the IRS were to contact you with an issue, it would more likely be by mail.
Here's a list of characteristics of this scam, comprised by the IRS.
•Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
•Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security Number.
•Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
•Scammers 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.
If you think 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 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
•If you've been targeted by this scam, you 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 your complaint.
Phone scammers are targeting taxpayers and extorting money from them by pretending to be with the Internal Revenue Service. The scammers will call and say that the target owes money to the IRS and must pay immediately with a debit card or wire-transfer.
If the victim refuses, they are threatened with arrest, deportation, or having their business or driver's license suspended. Frequently the caller will then become hostile and insulting.
The nationwide scam frequently targets recent immigrants who are more vulnerable to the threats.
The IRS is warning taxpayers not to fall for the scam, saying they will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. They also say that if someone calls and threatens deportation or license revocation, that it is a good sign they are not legitimately from the IRS.
On a normal basis, the first contact a taxpayer will have with the IRS will be via mail.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you have no reason to believe you owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
If you believe you do owe back taxes, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue or let you know if there is a problem.
More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.