IRS phone scams are prevalent around tax time. Callers will claim that you owe money to the IRS and must pay to prevent serious legal action. Since people rarely get verifiable phone calls from the IRS, you’re far more likely to be dealing with a scammer. Learn about five of the following ways you can fight back.
Look for Some Scammer Warning Signs
If you’re unsure about whether a caller is legitimately contacting you on behalf of the IRS, the following are some major red flags that identify scammers:
- Requests for payment over the phone
- Demands for immediate payment and denials for your right for an appeal
- Threats of deportation, arrest, or other actions involving law enforcement
- Requests for payment in a specific form, such as a prepaid card
You’ll find many IRS scams. If you’re not expecting to hear from the IRS, it’s unlikely that the caller is legitimate. The IRS will always send you a paper notice before reaching out by phone.
Report the Caller
Prevent IRS scammers from reaching other innocent victims by reporting any suspicious calls that you get from someone pretending to be with the IRS. You can report these calls to the Federal Trade Commission using its online Complaint Assistant feature. This feature will ask you about the contact method and collect details of the conversation that took place. Include the phrase “IRS Telephone Scam” in your notations about the report.
You can also report the caller to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). TIGTA has a simple online reporting system that collects details such as the date, contact method, and information that you provided to the caller. This form also collects detailed information on any payments that you may have made before realizing that you were dealing with a scammer. You can call TIGTA at 800-366-4484 to file your report by phone or get more information.
Stop and Block the Call
Don’t let a scammer persistently harass you with threats that are purportedly from the IRS. No legitimate IRS official will place calls to you in a malicious or threatening manner. You can stop repeat calls from the same number by blocking the number.
On most phones, you can block a caller by opening your call history, tapping on the offending number, and selecting block caller or block contact. You may also find a call reject option in your phone’s settings.
Return the Call
If the caller left you a voicemail asking for a return call, but you’re suspicious about whether the call is legitimate, you can block your own number when you call back. Depending on the scammer, this blocked number may throw off the scammer enough that you’ll get a more flustered response that reveals the true nature of the operation.
Here is an easy step by step instructions provided by T-Mobile on how to block your number on your smartphone. Plus you can add more security to your call by using T-Mobile’s Lookout Mobile Security app to protect your data and device from malware and other attacks.
Remember that you shouldn’t give out any personal or identifying information to these callers. With your number blocked, you have an added layer of anonymity to protect you as you question the caller.
Source the Number
If the caller didn’t block the originating number, you can do a reverse phone lookup online to see if the number is from a known scammer. You can also simply search for the number online. You’ll often get results that reveal whether the number generated similar scams. In rare cases, you may find that the number is a legitimate telephone number associated with the IRS.
If you believe that the IRS might be contacting you, but you suspect a fraudulent caller, always err on the side of safety and end the call. You can reach out to contact the IRS yourself at 800-829-1040 to safely and legitimately handle any tax issues that you may have.
Don’t give in to scammers, no matter how threatening or confident they sound. Calls claiming to be from the IRS are nearly always fraudulent. Protect your funds and react defensively if you receive these types of phone calls.