The 2019 IRS “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams #2: Phone Scams Getting More Sophisticated

Next on the IRS list of things to watch out for this tax season are some new kinds of phone scams, that often turn abusive.

Every year, the IRS warns taxpayers that it never initiates telephone calls with taxpayers. Despite increased awareness, every year many taxpayers fall for new kinds of phone scams perpetrated by con artists pretending to call from the IRS.

These schemes often begin with a message from an automated system (“robo-call”) or a live person claiming to be calling from the IRS. When you call them back, the scammers either demand that you immediately pay a phony tax bill via a debit card or wire transfer, or ask you to provide them with your personal information so that they can send you a large tax refund.

So, how do they continue to fool so many people?

They fake their identity

Scammers utilize a variety of techniques to trick their victims into thinking that they are calling from the IRS. These include (1) providing fake IRS badge numbers and (2) manipulating caller ID to make it look like they are calling from an IRS or law enforcement number. The telephone numbers of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Services (Houston or Brooklyn) offices are the latest numbers to be used in schemes that utilize “call spoofing.”

They plan well

Scammers generally do a lot of research and planning before contacting their targets. They tend to use multiple methods of contact, and often know – at the least – their target’s address and the last four digits of their social security number. They may also send fake messages to the target’s email to support their phony call. And when they finally make the call, they use fake background noise that makes it sound like they are calling from a busy calling center.

We often wonder what these scammers could accomplish if they put their energies into a legitimate business enterprise!

They threaten you

In an attempt to get you to provide them with your credit or debit card number, or to make a wire transfer, scammers may harass you by threatening to have you arrested, deported, or to have your driver’s or professional license suspended.

Keep in mind that the IRS does not make unsolicited phone calls, let alone abusive ones. The IRS does not demand payment over the phone, and does not demand payment without giving you ample time to appeal the amount owed.

How to report IRS phone scams

Whether or not you believe you owe money to the IRS, you should never engage with someone who calls you unannounced and begins to demand your personal and/or financial information. Here are a few things you can do to avoid being phone scammed:

  • Hang up immediately!
  • Contact The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 or via the TIGTA website.
  • Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint Assistant page.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

Our review of the 2019 IRS “Dirty Dozen” will continue with Identity Theft crimes.