The IRS Dirty Dozen 2015, #1: Phone Scams

The IRS recently published its “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for 2015 and we are going to dedicate our next 12 posts to each of the scams to ensure that our readers are thoroughly familiar with all of them.

What is a phone scam?

The IRS has issued a warning about scam artists who call you pretending to be an IRS agent or other government official. Their techniques for getting money from you vary, but nearly all involve aggressive scare tactics. Here are some methods they use that you should beware of:

  • The phone call. IRS agents always initiate contact with taxpayers by mail – never by telephone, email, text message, or social media channels. Any unexpected call or voicemail message from someone claiming to be an IRS agent is most likely a scam. If the call is an expected return call, get the employee’s name, badge number and call back number, then call 1-800-366-4484 to verify their identity.
  • Caller ID may be rigged. IRS impersonators are able to alter their caller ID to match an IRS phone number.
  • Their identification is fake. They typically use common names and fake IRS agent badge numbers.
  • They know some of your private information. In addition to your telephone number, they may also have the last four digits of your social security number. Do let that fool you.
  • They demand immediate payment. A legitimate IRS inquiry or demand for payment will arrive in the mail and will provide you with an opportunity to pose questions and make an appeal. Any demand for immediate payment over the phone is a scam.
  • They demand that you pay via credit or prepaid debit card. You should never give out your credit, debit or bank account information on the phone to anyone. IRS payments are only made via check or through a secure, IRS-authorized service provider.
  • They may call a second time. Particularly aggressive scammers may call you a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and threaten you with arrest, deportation or the revocation of your driver’s license.

Who’s the target?

Victims of phone scams are typically immigrants and others whose first language is not English. The elderly are also prime targets. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports that since October 2013, there have been approximately 290,000 phone scam contacts, and 3,000 individuals have been cheated out of more than $14 million collectively. Most of those targeted reside in California.

What you should do

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, hang up and report the incident. If you receive a message on your voicemail demanding an immediate return call, instead contact the TIGTA at 800-366-4484 and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at

If you know that you have a genuine tax issue, contact the tax attorneys at Moskowitz LLP for a confidential consultation.

#2 on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams is Phishing, which will be covered in detail in our next blog post in this series.