If there is anything worse than the IRS, it is scammers pretending to be the IRS to squeeze you out of your cash. Police departments across the country and the IRS are warning citizens about scammers who use the authority of the IRS to trick and bludgeon citizens into wiring cash or divulging personal information. This scam has led to millions of dollars, as desperate citizens pay thousands of dollars to avoid arrest or worse.
These sorts of scam work over the phone. The scammer will call the victim over the phone and pretend to be an IRS agent. They will state that the victim owes a large amount in back taxes, and will threaten arrest or deportation if the “taxes” are not immediately paid. Sometimes, they will offer to settle for a lower amount so that the victim is more likely to pay up, and then ask for the money to be wired. Other times, they might ask for bank account information.
While this may seem to be unbelievable, people are inclined to stop thinking and panic when they receive that phone call. As Don Bush, a vice president at fraud detection company Kount observes, “When we hear IRS, our brain freezes.” Many of the victims are vulnerable and elderly who fear the IRS and will pay anything to make them go away.
Unfortunately, there is not much which law enforcement can do to find and prosecute scammers or help people who get caught out. Many scammers live overseas and tracking them down can be difficult. Still, they can be sometimes caught, such as an Indian man who was sentenced to 14 years for leading a scamming ring.
So how can people tell if they are dealing with a scammer? The IRS has a list of guidelines identifying scammers as well as tips for how to deal with them. But the simplest guideline is that the IRS will never call you first. They will normally mail you, and will always give you a chance to appeal taxes owed and never threaten you with arrest off the bat.
If you are still uncertain about whether an IRS notification is from the IRS, call the official IRS number at 800-829-1040.