Over the last couple of weeks, Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has noted an increase in phone calls to the public falsely claiming an affiliation with the IRS. Calls of this nature, where consumers are told a debt is owed and must be paid immediately, are not legitimate. Callers play on fear to pressure consumers and business owners into making on the spot payments which are not due. The IRS communicates primarily through the U.S. Mail, and taxpayers always have the right to dispute claimed debts.
“The timing of these calls is nefarious,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Most people have last year’s taxes in the rear-view mirror, so to get a call now saying taxes are still owed, it gets people thinking that maybe they – or their tax preparer – made a mistake. Which is why it’s so important to stay calm, not let yourself be pressured and verify everything that you’re told.”
BBB is advising the public that the IRS will never make calls demanding immediate payment and initiates contact with taxpayers through the mail. Scammers are also able to utilize technology that alters the information which appears on caller ID, so it may appear as though a call is originating from the IRS, when in fact the call is fraudulent.
Phony IRS calls have become common nationwide and can target anyone. Fraudsters perpetrating this scheme can call from anywhere and attempt to manipulate people’s fears to trick or coerce them into making hard to trace payments, such as wire transfers, gift cards or prepaid debit cards. These con artists often claim an affiliation with the IRS and use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers.
In recent years, scammers have turned to robocalls, leaving “urgent” messages for people claiming a tax debt is due. These messages will sometimes even threaten arrest if the recipient doesn’t call back to make a payment. However, robocalls such as these are illegal and the messages left are not legitimate.
People who speak to these scammers on the phone say they are abusive and threaten arrest or even deportation if alleged tax debts are not paid immediately. Some callers have even claimed to be from the U.S. Marshals, threatening arrest if alleged tax debts were not paid in full.
The IRS website states they will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the debt in question.
- 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.
The IRS also states they don’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.
If you receive one of these fraudulent IRS phone calls, BBB recommends you:
- Hang up – Don’t provide any information over the phone. Stay calm.
- Protect your personal information – Never give out any personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your Social Security number. Remember, taxpayers have rights.
- Contact the FTC – File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. People are encouraged to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in their complaint.
- Contact the FCC – Let the Federal Communications Commission know about ID spoofing by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC or file a complaint at www.fcc.gov/complaints