The IRS is warning about what it calls a sophisticated phone scam spreading across the country.
Potential victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid immediately through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Those who refuse are told they will be arrested, deported or have their business license or driver’s license suspended.
The caller tends to use hostility or insults to sway the potential victim. They may even be able to recite the last four digits of your social security number.
Accomplices may then call you back later claiming to be from the local police or the department of licensing, all in an effort to convince you the first call was legitimate.
Scams like these are most likely to work on the elderly, people with mental disabilities or people who have difficulty speaking English.
"Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer," says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. "If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling."
Werfel says that the IRS will typically make first contact with you via mail, not by phone.
If you get a call like this one, the IRS says to call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Other signs that it may be a scam:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.