Tax day has come and gone, but if you own a phone (and we bet you all do), then you could still be targeted by the IRS phone scam. For anyone who missed our last post, this scam involves IRS impostors calling your phone and claiming that you owe the government money in back taxes. They are pushy to say the least: You owe us money and we want it NOW via a prepaid credit card. Don’t want to pay up? Then you’re facing jail time or deportation. Better lawyer up. That may all seem ridiculous, but those scare tactics are working, especially on the elderly and new citizens.
The advice on how to avoid the IRS phone scam may seem obvious—don’t give them anything, not a single cent—but given the amount of people who’ve been taken by these scammers, we decided it’s worth offering some tips on how what to watch for and how to proceed if you do get one of these scam calls.
Scammers by numbers
The sheer amount of money that’s been taken along with the number of complaints that the Federal Trade Commission has received because of it was enough to prompt a congressional hearing yesterday. Check out the facts and figures that lawmakers heard:
- Over the last two years, more than 400,000 people filed complaints with the U.S. Treasury about the IRS phone scam.
- 3,000 people have been defrauded out of a combined total of $15M+.
- At more than 10,000 calls per week, the scammers just keep coming.
- Americans file between 9,000 and 12,000 reports per week with the IRS.
A congressional hearing is a start, but finding an immediate solution to the problem is a tough one. That’s because most of these calls originate from outside the U.S. The fact is you may not be able to rely on the government to solve this any time soon. Instead, it’s best to be educated on the issue.
The “don’ts” as told by the [real] IRS
Beyond just issuing a consumer report, the IRS penned the five things it will never do:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will it call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
Filing a scam incident report: aka hoop jumping
Say you do get one of these calls. Since you’re already wise to the scam, you know not to shell out any cash, but it’s still important to report the incident with the government. We took a look at what to do and have some tips.
The IRS will tell you to give your report to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). They’ll even give you a phone number to reach them at: 1.800.366.4484. Don’t bother calling, as of right now, you’ll only hear that their voice mail is full.
Instead, head straight to the TIGTA website and click the big red button in the upper-right corner (as seen below).
The form you’ll fill out is long and requires that you create a 5-digit pin from scratch (which you’ll either need to memorize or write down), but at least you’re getting the situation reported.
Fight scams with Whitepages
Scams like this one get our blood boiling. That’s why we’ve got our own team dedicated to phone reputation services. Their mission? Track phone numbers committing spam and scams, and pass that information onto you. Together with reports made by Whitepages users, the phone reputation team will tell you if a phone number is suspected of spam. Here are the two ways you can check spam on Whitepages:
- Perform a reverse-phone lookup. If you get a call from someone you think might be scamming you, then search the phone number. We’ll tell you if they’re suspected of spam and show you comments left by other users
- Get Whitepages Caller ID. Scammers don’t just limit themselves to landlines. They also like calling cellphones. If you’re an Android user, then download our free app. It’ll tell you if a number is suspected of spam while they’re calling without you having to perform a reverse-phone lookup.