BBB Warning: IRS Phone Scam Threatens Consumers with Jail Time

People from all over the country are falling victim to a recent phone scam by scammers purporting to be IRS agents.
August 25, 2014

These IRS impersonators are calling unsuspecting taxpayers and demanding that they pay taxes they do not even owe, by either loading money on a prepaid card or sending it via a wire transfer. Those who refuse to pay immediately are then threatened by the “IRS agents.” The threats include jail time, deportation, or the suspension of the victim’s business or driver’s license.

In order to convince people that they are real IRS agents, the scammers use several tricks including a program to make the IRS’s toll-free number appear on the caller ID, call center background noise, and false agent badge numbers. If the target is not already convinced, several callers are able to report the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number. And this complex scam goes even further. Those who hang up on the caller may receive another call soon after from a scammer claiming to be a police officer or a DMV agent.

Calls reported to BBB typically follow this script:

“I am calling from debt audits department of the Internal Revenue Service.  The nature behind this voice mail is to make you aware that we have received some legal petition complaints against your name concerning some tax evasion, so before we go ahead and issue a warrant for your arrest, or before we execute this matter into the federal claim courthouse.  If you need any further details about this matter, you can call us back on our call number.” Second messages typically are similar but with added phrases meant to scare consumers into calling back such as: “red flag notice” and “legal tax evasion”.

Click to hear an example of this scam:

Follow these tips in order to protect yourself from this IRS scam and others like it:

  • Beware of any caller claiming to be from the IRS or any government agency and demanding money. The IRS announced that it would never ask for payments by wire transfer or a prepaid card and it will typically alert taxpayers of unpaid taxes via the mail, not a phone call.
  • In general, never give anyone money or credit card information over the phone, especially when they are contacting you. Always verify the legitimacy of a caller by hanging up, looking up a known number for that agency and calling there to verify the claim.
  • Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to bully their targets into doing what they want. This is a tactic many scammers use.
  • Be skeptical of what a caller claims he or she can do if you refuse to meet their demand. An IRS agent will not get the police or an immigration agency involved just because you owe taxes.

When in doubt, contact BBB for assistance.