Recent scams are coming from people pretending to be the IRS – usually in the form of calls and emails. The “IRS” name will be on the e-mails, the logo will be almost identical, and there will be a website pretending to be that of the IRS’s. In the process of scamming you for your money, your identity is also at risk.
In the case of 69-year-old Phoebe McBride, the South Carolina resident received a call from someone pretending to be IRS, claiming she owed $9,600 and threatening her with a federal arrest warrant.
The scammers told Ms. McBride, she needed to pay her money immediately. “I may be old, but I’m not stupid,” she told local reporters. Instead of falling for the scheme, Ms. McBride turned the tables on the crooks by knowingly playing along with the scam and collecting information to report to law enforcement.
“I know it’s not real, but there are people who may fall for it, said Ms. McBride.
In order to avoid falling victim to these highly advanced scams, you need to know what the IRS cannot and will not do.
The IRS will not call and demand an immediate payment, nor will they say that you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail. The IRS will also allow an appeal or a questioning process for the amount you owe. If the phone call or e-mail says otherwise, it is a scam.
If the e-mail or phone call demands you pay your taxes in a certain way, for example, a credit card, be alerted. The real IRS will give you payment options, and will not ask you to give your credit card or debit card number over the phone.
If you are alerted to these tactics and tell the person on the phone you will not pay over the phone, the scammers will likely threaten to bring local police or other agencies to arrest you. Do not be alarmed, the real IRS will not threaten local law enforcement action or other agencies to arrest you, nor will the IRS threaten you with a lawsuit.
If you do not owe taxes and have no reason to think that you do, you should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) and use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page to report the incident. The Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov also has an “FTC Complaint Assistant” to add an IRS telephone scam.
On the other hand, if you think that you do owe taxes, and you want to verify the legitimacy of the call, ask for a call back number and an employee badge number. Then, call the IRS back at 800-829-1040 and the IRS employees can help you.
Sara Johnston, Esq. is a Lexington attorney and associate at DelCotto Law Group, who helps clients with wills and trusts, elder law and special needs planning.