Scam of the Month: Bogus IRS calls

April 07, 2014

Based on a recent alert from the IRS, BBB is warning our Accredited Businesses to be on the lookout – at home and at work – for threatening phone calls from people claiming to be with the IRS. According to the IRS, this scheme has victimized people nationwide.

“Fraudsters know taxes are forefront on the minds of many people in the midst of tax season,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They play on that and they often have just enough accurate information to keep potential victims off-balance.”

According to the IRS, these unknown callers – falsely claiming an affiliation with the IRS – tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or via wire transfer. These scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license. However, the IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – in regard to unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask you for a credit card number over the phone.

J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), says, “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

The callers who commit this type of fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
  • Employ technology to alter caller ID information so it appears as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you may owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don't owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Be sure to add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

The IRS will never request personal or financial information by email, texting or any social media. You should forward scam emails to Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in such emails. You can also contact BBB in regard to any suspicious phone calls or offers Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 800-646-6222.