The Virginian-Pilot’s Roger Chesley recently detailed an unusual phone message he received. Someone had called claiming to be an employee of the Internal Revenue Service’s “Tax Audit Department.” When Mr. Chesley returned the call, a foreign-sounding man answered and asked what number he was calling from. Mr. Chesley refused to give his number, telling the man to check his records. The man became flustered and hung up. It turns out it was a scam.
IRS officials say this has been happening across the country and it’s not the first time we’re hearing about it. Back in April, the Virginian-Pilot warned us about these phone scammers. People will call claiming that you owe money to the IRS and then they threaten jail time or other penalties if you don’t pay. Sometimes the callers are able to give the last four digits of your Social Security number and they may spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID, both of which can trick some people into believing it is a legitimate call. These people will even sometimes call a second time claiming to be local or federal law enforcement officials, or even from the DMV, and threaten the loss of your driver’s license. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received over 90,000 complaints about these phone scammers. There have been approximately 1100 known victims paying out an estimated $5 million, to date.
Per IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, if there is some issue, the IRS’s first step will not be to call you, but send official correspondence through the mail. Always suspect fraud if a caller is angry, threatening, or demanding immediate payment. If you receive such a phone call, do not give any information; instead, get their number and say you’ll call them back. Ask for details; to whom do you owe the money to, how much, what dates, and what company is supposed to receive the payment? You can then go to www.checkwhocalled.com and enter the number they gave you. It works like a reverse phone book for telemarketers and allows you to see and post comments about callers. You should also report the calls to TIGTA at 800-366-4484. If you know that you do actually owe taxes, call the real IRS at 800-829-1040 or go online to www.treasury.gov/tigta/.
You work too hard to have your money taken by scammers!