IRS Phone Fraud: 5 Ways to Identify a Phony IRS Call

Tax FormsThe IRS reports renewed efforts by IRS-impersonators looking to steal taxpayers' money through sophisticated phone scam tactics. And while you may think you'd be quick to spot a fake call, fresh waves of criminal callers throughout the year continue to get more persuasive - and more aggressive - than ever.

In fact, their tactics have conned nearly 4,550 victims out of a collective $23 million since October 2013, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The effectiveness of this growing phone scam put it at the top of the IRS's 2015 "Dirty Dozen" list of the leading tax scam threats in the Unites States.

Why the IRS scam is so convincing

Scammers call claiming to be IRS employees - convincing you they're legitimate through the use of fake caller ID, names and ID badge numbers. They often know key personal information to engage you, which may include the last four digits of your social security number.

These imposters then play off fear of unpaid taxes and associated repercussions. Which is particularly useful against those Americans contributing to the $80 billion collectively owed the IRS in back taxes, including fees and penalties associated with filing late or by underreporting income.

Persistent and increasingly threatening, IRS scammers demand immediate payment through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, under threat of arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license.

They may leave "urgent" callback requests and send follow up emails; or even call back pretending to be the police or department of motor vehicles, again with spoofed caller ID, to back their claim.

How you can spot an IRS phone scam

While con artists continue to think up new tactics to trick victims, there are sure-fire ways to spot a phony IRS call quickly. If a caller tries one of these five measures - contrary to how the real IRS operates - you'll know it's a scam:

  1. Demanding immediate payment, and calling you regarding owed taxes without first sending you an official bill via snail mail.
  2. Demanding you pay taxes without allowing you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  3. Requiring you to pay owed taxes a certain way, such as by prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
  4. Asking for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threatening to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

What to do if you receive a fake IRS call

If you get a call from an alleged IRS employee utilizing any of the above measures to request payment; immediately hang up without sharing any personal information.

If you're concerned you may legitimately owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to confirm.

In the case of a phony call, report the incident promptly to the TIGTA and the Federal Trade Commission FTC Complaint Assistant. Then, protect others from falling victim by downloading CallerSmart's iPhone app for reverse phone look ups and leaving your feedback on the scammer's number. If you don't have an iPhone you can still look up the scammer's number and leave your feedback with our free phone tracer available on our website.