Tribune Print Share Text

Scam alert: When the IRS comes calling

Created date

May 28th, 2014
man on phone
man on phone

The 2014 tax season may be over, but sadly, scams playing on the nearly universal fear of owing money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are running rampant. Crooks have called thousands of unsuspecting taxpayers, fraudulently representing themselves as IRS officials. They claim that the person owes taxes, then demand immediate payment in the form of a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” says J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). According to George, these calls have been made to every state, and victims have collectively paid over $1 million to this scheme.

“The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming,” he said. “We want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals. Do not become a victim.”

Seemingly authentic

What makes this scam particularly difficult to detect is that the callers have gone to great lengths to assume their false identity. They have common names like Bob Jones or Mary Smith. They provide you with fake IRS badge numbers to make their business seem official. They know the last four digits of your social security number, and they have even managed to make the caller ID information that appears on your phone appear as if they are actually calling from the IRS.

“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,” says George.

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 might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. 

• If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.

• You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

TIGTA and the IRS encourage taxpayers to be alert for phone and email scams that use the IRS name. 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 those emails.

If you have any scam stories you’d like to share with other Tribune readers, send them to