My very own IRS imposter call

“Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.” That was the message on my answering machine when I returned home from work.

My kids were scared. They asked: “What does it mean they are filing a lawsuit? Can they send you to jail? Shouldn’t you call them back?”

IRS Imposter Scams

IRS Imposter Scams
Infographic

Working at the FTC, I knew the call was a fake. I’d heard that IRS imposter scams are on the rise. Earlier that day, I’d even given a webinar on IRS imposter scams as part of the FTC’s Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

I calmly explained that there was no reason to worry. It couldn’t possibly be the real IRS. Why?

  • When you have a tax problem, the IRS will first contact you by mail, not by phone.
  • The IRS won’t threaten arrest, deportation or loss of a driver’s license. 
  • The IRS won’t demand that you make payment right away.
  • The IRS won’t ask you to wire money, pay with a prepaid money card, or ask you to share credit card information over the phone. 

“But aren’t you going to at least call them back?” the kids persisted. “No,” I explained, “if I do, they’ll just pressure me for money or ask for information that they can use to get my money. That’s the way this scam works.” 

So, what did I do instead? I wrote down the phone number so I could report the call to the FTC and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). If I’d been concerned that maybe I owed money to the IRS, I knew that I could check with the IRS directly by calling 1-800-829-1040.   

That evening, I learned first-hand that these IRS imposter calls can happen to anyone. Once my kids were convinced that I wasn’t going to jail, we all sat down to dinner.   

For more information on IRS imposter scams and tax identity theft, visit ftc.gov/taxidtheft.

Comments

how could these imposters be stopped or charged or put in jail? because the calls are happening more frequent than ever, and the same group uses different phone numbers and called me several times.

I waited for 15 minutes on the phone to talk to the FCC only to be told that they don't hand "IRS" fraud calls. I then tried to contact the FTC but gave up -- especially after I read these. The scam number I got (202) 241-2693 from "Office Jack Cooper" of the "IRS in Washington DC" has apparently been spewing out the same fraud game since 2013 -- and FTC has not put an end to that number... amazing. I guess it's just too much work to protect people by having the phone company immediately shut down access.... I know they pop up again eventually but for TWO YEARS from the same phonbe listing is absurd. This is NOT a spoofed number...

You can file a consumer complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov/complaint. It's important to submit a complaint because investigators from all over the country access the FTC's complaint database. When you file a complaint, you can provide the details from your comment.

so, FTC doesn't take action on the scammers, but instead provides this outlet for consumers to list their experiences so others can compare notes. Up to the consumers to find the FTC complaint website and check it from time to time and see the latest scam. hmm

To read about the FTC's legal actions against scammers and schemes, go to our Press Release page. To view the list of more than 100 companies and people that are banned, by federal court orders, from participating in the business of debt collection, go to Banned Debt Collectors.

Go to FTC cases resulting in refunds to view information about 30 recent cases, and how to request a refund if you were harmed. In 2014, the last year for which figures are available, 743,111 people received redress of more than $65.2 million.

This blog is not the FTC's consumer complaint site; the complaint site is ftc.gov/complaint. When you make a complaint, the information goes into a database that is accessible only to law enforcement. The FTC blog - and comments from blog readers - often alert people to current scams. We encourage readers to report scams at ftc.gov/complaint so law enforcement can have the information.

 

I just got a call today same message from a 347 418 0603 Indian accent. When I asked if he worked for the irs he hung up I knew it was a scam then

I too just got that same message. Some people really are awful. The # that called me was 262-384-8761. The guy did answer when I called it back.
But I hung up on him again. Scammer

Got one today from 434 535 2066....same thing saying IRS was filing a lawsuit against me...last week it was from another number...this needs to be stopped

213-709-4510. Same type of messages. Extremely unnerving at first.

I got today same type of call twice. Called back. They ask to resolve problem or I will be jailed in 20 min. When I asked how to resolve and where I have to send check, they said it should be done by phone and they will lead me through process. Fortunately I knew, that IRS will never ask for money by phone. It was very nervous experience, especially for my wife.

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