I’ve received them, my clients have received them, friends have received them. Phone messages that state you owe the IRS money and a sheriff (or other legal authority, or legal actions such as liens) will be arriving at your door imminently if you don’t clear up the balance due NOW! So, in order to avoid incarceration or deportation you need to pay with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
These calls are made by scammers! Even if caller ID indicates it is the Internal Revenue Service, or the email has the right logo, or the address for the receipt of payment is an actual IRS office. DO NOT pay these people, DO NOT give them personal information over the phone. IRS scams, including this one, were the top reported scams to the Better Business Bureau in 2015.
Per the official IRS website (www.irs.gov) the IRS will not:
- Call you and demand payment. If you owe the IRS, you will receive a bill (or many bills) in the mail; USPS, old fashioned “snail mail”, prior to ever being contacted via phone.
- Demand you pay without allowing you a process to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Require a specific type of payment, such as a prepaid debit card. They will always give you options for form of payment.
- Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. NEVER give these out to someone who has called you that you do not know personally. If you believe you owe an organization funds, hang up the phone and call the number listed on your bill.
- Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying. Yes, people get arrested for tax evasion and tax fraud, but both would be preceded by an extensive process and investigation. It is highly improbable that those who do face these charges were blindsided by the arrest.
What should you do if you receive a call like this? First, if you’ve answered it, hang up.
Second, report the call to TIGTA, either through their website, www.treasury.gov/tigta, then click IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting, or call 800-366-4484.
Third, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov, click File a Consumer Complaint, then Scams and Rip-Offs. You want to add “IRS Telephone Scam” into the notes.
If you think there might be a chance that you do owe the IRS, contact both your bookkeeper and tax preparer to discuss the next best step to take. Also, specific information and details on both the scams and how to resolve true tax liabilities can be found at www.irs.gov.