Your mobile phone rings showing a number from Washington, D.C. You answer and the voice on the other end says: “This is Mr. James, agent number 5706 with the Internal Revenue Service. You owe a significant amount in back taxes. We are preparing to bring criminal charges against you that may result in jail time unless you pay immediately. How would you like to pay? Credit card, prepaid card or wire transfer …”
How do you respond?
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports it has received reports of more than 1 million contacts like this since October 2013. Unfortunately, over 5,500 victims have collectively paid nearly $29 million as a result of this scam.
These scammers are constantly developing different methods to continue the scam. Some, trying to look official, go so far as to provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make, or use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. They even use official IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail they send to their victims.
The primary modus operandi of these scammers is to try to scare their victims using intimidation and bullying to force the victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t get the money.
At the IRS Tax Tip site on scam phone calls found here, you will find more details on the methods the scammers are using and what the IRS does or doesn’t do when contacting taxpayers, as well as who to contact should you become a victim of such a scam.
However, the bottom line is that if you receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS who uses the threat of legal action if you do not pay immediately, that is a sign that it is not the IRS calling.