What to Do if You Get a Call from the IRS Asking for Money

Woman on the phone at home
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Be wary if you get a call from a person purporting to be an IRS agent asking for payment of taxes. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) warns that we are currently experiencing the "largest ever" telephone scam involving swindlers impersonating IRS agents and extorting money out of innocent taxpayers.

How the scam works

"Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver's license," TIGTA said in their news release.

Scammers will often appear to be legitimate. TIGTA reveals the fraudsters often:

  • "Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • "Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
  • "Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • "Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
  • "Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim."

Over 20,000 incidents of this scam have been reported to TIGTA, and victims have been defrauded of over $1 million as of March 20, 2014.

What the IRS's Procedure Really Is

The IRS contacts taxpayers by mail alerting them that they owe taxes, and the letters explain options for paying by check or setting up an installment agreement.

IRS agents do not take credit card numbers over the phone.

How to protect yourself if you get a call saying you owe taxes

TIGTA provides the following tips for how to deal with this telephone scam:

  • "If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • "If you don't owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • "You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add 'IRS Telephone Scam' to the comments in your complaint."

Exercise vigilance. Contact the IRS, or ask your tax professional to contact the IRS for you, instead of dealing with someone calling you out of the blue demanding money.

For more details, read TIGTA Warns of "Largest Ever" Phone Fraud Scam Targeting Taxpayers (TIGTA-2014-03) and Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls (IR-2014-84).