A few weeks ago, we received a phone message and the caller indicated that the IRS was filing a lawsuit against us for failure to pay taxes. He actually left a telephone number so we could call him back. If we didn’t call him back there would be dire consequences! We could go to jail!! What really caught our attention was that the call came from a Maryland area code, near Washington, DC.
I correctly dismissed the call as a spam call and later found out that sometimes the caller ID is set up to make it appear that it’s a legitimate IRS phone number when it is not. Lately I’ve been reading about spam calls in the paper and on line and the IRS has issued official warnings about these types of calls several times over the past year.
It was surprising to read that the number of these calls is on the increase because people are actually falling for the scam! But instead of the IRS calling, the scam artists are operating out of a call center and simply trying to get information so that they can steal identities and then steal money.
CNN reported that since 2013 the scammers have stolen more than $15 million. Most people lost $5,000 to $6,000. One individual actually lost $500,000. (That amount of money kind of makes me wonder if the person had been cheating on their taxes for years and assumed the IRS had finally caught up with them!) This scam has grown into one of the biggest impersonation scams in the history of the Treasury Inspector General’s office. So beware!
A sure sign of fraud is if the caller starts making aggressive threats and demands that you pay up immediately. Another sign of a scam is if the caller asks for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone or threatens to have the local police or other law enforcement groups have you arrested for not paying up. These intimidation tactics make it easy for people to fall victim to the scam. People are afraid of the IRS and are worried that if they don’t pay up they’ll owe even more money. Or an elderly couple could fear losing their independence if they somehow end up in trouble with the IRS.
Aggressive phone calls and threats aren’t the way that the IRS works. In fact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) put out a consumer alert in mid July stating that the scammers were also saying they were from the US Treasury or the local police, and sometimes even the FTC in addition to impersonating the IRS.
Please don’t fall for this type of bogus call.
The IRS isn’t going to initiate contact through a telephone call, especially one that threatens you with jail if you don’t pay! And they aren’t going to send you something in the mail asking you to verify your information! Nor will they ever ask for bank account or credit card numbers over the phone.
Here is a tip directly from the IRS website:
“The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a telltale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.”
If you or anyone you know has received these calls, here are two website that you can go to for more information about all different types of scams:
Once again, it’s important to recognize that the IRS will not call you to demand immediate payment or tell you to put money on a prepaid debit card. The IRS will mail you a bill first if tax money is owed. But again, make sure to call the IRS before you pay anything. If you think you might owe taxes, call your tax preparer and the IRS at 800-829-1040. Or read more on the alerts at www.irs.gov.
If you do not believe you owe any taxes and think you’re being scammed, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 (the integrity hotline). Consumers also can file a complaint at https://www.ftc.gov. Add the words “IRS telephone scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Whatever you do, be cautious about giving out personal information over the phone at all times, and warn the people in your life who may be vulnerable and fall for the scam. It is obviously not a godly thing to do and we need to work together to stop these crooks.
“For everyone who does these things, everyone who does what is dishonest, is an abomination to the Lord, your God.” Deuteronomy 25:16