Spoiler: It's not the IRS calling

Emma McGowan 15 Feb 2023

The IRS reports that scam calls have been on the rise in recent years, with thousands of people falling victim to them.

Have you ever gotten a call from the IRS? If you have, then you might be one of the thousands of people losing millions of dollars every year to IRS scam calls. These fraudulent calls, which claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are typically made by scammers who are trying to steal money or personal information from taxpayers.  

Even if you haven‘t been hit with one of these calls yet, this is an increasingly common scam, with a wide range of variations on the theme. With that in mind, here’s a comprehensive guide to IRS scam calls, including how to recognize them and how to protect yourself. 

What are IRS scam calls? 

IRS scam calls are fraudulent calls claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These calls are typically made by scammers who are trying to steal money or personal information from taxpayers. The scammers often use fake caller ID numbers and official-sounding titles to make the call seem legitimate. They may also use high-pressure tactics, such as threatening arrest or other legal action, to try to get taxpayers to pay them money. 

The IRS reports that these scams have been on the rise in recent years, with thousands of people falling victim to them. In 2020 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that people lost over $47 million to IRS impersonation scams. This is a significant increase from previous years, with losses totaling $15.9 million in 2019 and $17 million in 2018. 

How to recognize IRS scam calls 

There are a few key signs to watch out for that can help you figure out whether an IRS call is real or fake: 

  • The "IRS" is calling you: The IRS generally communicates with taxpayers through the mail, not by phone. If you receive a call out of the blue claiming to be from the IRS, it's likely a scam.

  • The caller wants you to pay with gift cards: The IRS will never ask you to pay your taxes using gift cards or any other prepaid debit card. If the caller is trying to get you to pay with gift cards, it's definitely a scam. 

  • There's a sense of urgency: Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency in order to pressure you into making a decision quickly. Be extra wary of anyone telling you that you have a limited time to pay your taxes or that there are serious consequences if you don't pay right away. 

What to do about IRS scam calls 

If you receive a call that you think might be an IRS scam call, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself. 

Hang up 

The first thing you should do if you receive an IRS scam call is hang up. Don't engage with the caller or give them any personal information. This includes your name, address, social security number, or financial information. Scammers are skilled at convincing people to give out this type of information, so it's important to be cautious and to hang up if you have any doubts about the call. 

Report the call 

It's important to report IRS scam calls to the IRS and the FTC. You can report the call to the IRS by calling 1-800-366-4484 or by visiting the IRS website. You should also report the call to the FTC by visiting the FTC website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. When you report the call, be sure to provide as much information as possible, including the phone number that the caller used and any details about the conversation. This will help the IRS and the FTC investigate the call and try to prevent these types of scams from happening in the future. 

Talk to a trusted tax professional 

If you have any concerns about your taxes or whether you owe any money to the IRS, it's a good idea to speak with a trusted tax professional. They can help you understand your tax situation and advise you on what to do. A tax professional can also provide guidance on how to pay any taxes you owe and can help you to avoid common pitfalls that may result in you owing more money in the future. 

The IRS has a variety of payment options available for taxpayers who owe money. If you're not sure how to pay your taxes or if you're concerned that you may not have the funds to pay them, a tax professional can help you to explore your options.

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