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?”
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.