IRS Phone Scams – What You Need to Know

October 07, 2016 : Allie Freeland

IRS phone scams are an emerging and widespread way scammers hit taxpayers for personal information.

That’s right. Phone calls from people impersonating the IRS and demanding money have been named to the top of the IRS’s 2016’s “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. Since October 2015, the IRS has identified thousands of victims who have collectively paid more than $26 million as a result of IRS phone scams.

How An IRS Phone Scam Works

Our current tax system makes it relatively easy for scammers to obtain information to fraudulently file a tax return. In fact, they only need only your name, Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth to file a fraudulent return.

With tax phone call scams, scammers attempt to phish personal information over the phone by impersonating an IRS agent. If they obtain the information, they subsequently can make up a W-2 using your information and file a return claiming a refund in YOUR name, deposited into their bank account electronically.

Scammers might attempt to convince you that you are actually due for a larger refund. Or, they might try to convince you that you owe a large amount of back taxes and must pay them over the phone.

How Do You Protect Yourself from Tax Identity Theft via Phone?

Scammers will do anything they can to obtain personal information. Here are a few strategies in case you are a victim of tax scams by phone:

  1. Do not provide personal information over the phone, or via text messages, mail or online unless you have initiated contact or have a good idea of the person you are dealing with.
  2. There are a few common red flags arise with phone scammers. Know that the IRS will never do the following:
    • Call to demand immediate payment
    • 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.

What Actions Can You Take?

If you receive a phone call, or an email with similar messages, do not respond. Do not give them any personal information!

Additionally, it is always wise to make sure you select a qualified and trustworthy tax professional that can help answer questions about contact with the IRS and assist you.

Finally, make sure to leverage Tax Identity Shield® by H&R Block. If you’ve already been notified that a fraudulent tax return was filed in your name, you can speak to a tax professional about Tax Identity Victim Restoration Assistance. This will help you file a legitimate return with the IRS and give you next steps to make the necessary police reports, notify the credit bureaus as well as the FTC and Social Security Administration, financial institutions and more.

As a final measure of precaution, you can report the incident of the IRS phone scam online or call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

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Allie Freeland

Allie Freeland

Contributing Editor, H&R Block

Allie is the Contributing Editor of the H&R Block blog, Block Talk. She has been a practicing grammar geek since 2007.