I Received a Fake IRS Telephone Call

I received a phone call this week from the Internal Revenue Service. At least, the caller on the pre-recorded message said she was calling from the officer of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in regards to my case of being in default for payment.

In the pre-recorded message, “Officer Julie Smith” asked me to call a certain telephone number to make immediate payment. She said I could pay by a prepaid credit card over the phone or by a direct wire payment from my bank. She also warned that if I did not take action immediately I would face court action and possible imprisonment.

I laughed.

First of all, the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t make phone calls asking for payment. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they do it by postal mail, not by phone or by email. If the request for payment involves a large amount of money or if it is a repeat request, the envelope is sent to you by registered mail. If the IRS does want to contact someone, they certainly will never do so by using a pre-recorded telephone message.

Next, the IRS doesn’t have any employees with the title of “Officer.” The agency has “agents” and a lot of other titles, but no officers. If anyone calls claiming to be an “officer” from the IRS, you know the call is fake.

The IRS also doesn’t ask people to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and doesn’t ask for credit card numbers over the phone. The normal method of payment is by a bank check or money order. The taxpayer in default typically also has to sign some paperwork; just providing a credit card number by itself with no accompanying documentation is insufficient.

Telephone calls from people claiming to be IRS employees are placed by scammers, many of whom are outside the United States. Caller ID may show a U.S. number, however. Showing a fake Caller ID is easy with today’s technology! If you do make a payment, the money quickly disappears.

If you do receive such a call, do several things:

First, hang up.

Next, report the incident to TIGTA online at http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml or call the TIGTA at 800-366-4484.

Finally, file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. From the complaint homepage, select “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” In the notes, please include “IRS Telephone Scam.” Provide as many details as possible about the call.

I also added the telephone number shown in Caller ID in the call I received to my telephone service’s “block future calls” list. That way, any future calls from the same telephone number will be blocked and my phone will not ring. Admittedly, I doubt if that is very effective as these scammers probably can change phone numbers easily. However, it may block some future calls.

For more information about this scam, read IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams on the (official) IRS web site at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Repeats-Warning-about-Phone-Scams.

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