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What you should know about the IRS impersonation phone scam with a 'new twist'

Posted: 1:09 PM, Mar 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-16 13:09:37-04
What you should know about the IRS impersonation phone scam with a 'new twist'

The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning Friday about a new twist on the usual impersonation phone scam.

Officials say criminals are faking calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS.

Similar to other IRS impersonation scams, the con artist makes unsolicited calls to the victim, falsely claiming to be from the IRS. But now scammers have discovered a way to "spoof" the phone number of the TAS office in Houston or New York. The victim answers or returns the call, the criminal requests personal information, including a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number.

The TAS office helps taxpayers resolve IRS issues, such as sudden financial difficulty, but does not call residents out of the blue.

Characteristics of the calls are:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling.
  • Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or with driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call about an unexpected refund.

For taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do:

  • Please report IRS or Treasury-related fraudulent calls to phishing@irs.gov (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. The longer the con artist is engaged; the more opportunity he/she believes exists, potentially prompting more calls.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 1-800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

For those who owe taxes or think they do:

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.
  • View tax account online. Taxpayers can see their past 24 months of payment history, payoff amount and balance of each tax year owed.

Click here for more information.