Although tax scammers are active year round, the end of the tax filing season seems to be a “high season” for them. The IRS has issued an alert for a new twist on the old phone scam.

           By now just about everyone has received at least one phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment of delinquent taxes. The hope is that the fear of hearing the words “Internal Revenue Service” will result in the loss of all common sense and logic and prompt the listener to pay up. A review of the caller ID of these phone calls will generally list a toll free number. Any attempts to call back results in a busy signal, an unanswered call or a call center. The scammers have now refined this scheme in an effort to trick unsuspecting taxpayers into paying taxes which may not even be owed.

           Scammers are now programming their phones/computers to display the telephone number of the local Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) office on the taxpayer’s caller ID. A taxpayer who questions the legitimacy of the phone call is directed to go to the IRS’s website and look up the number for their local TAC office. This phone number will of course match the one on the caller ID. The scammer will wait a few minutes and then call back to demand payment, usually in the form of a debit card. The unsuspecting taxpayer now believing the phone call is legitimate will pay up.

           How can you make sure that you are not tricked by these scammers? Always remember the following:

1.     The IRS will not call you. All initial contacts with the IRS will be by regular or certified mail delivered by the US Postal Service.

2.     The IRS will never ask that you use a specific method of payment to pay your tax debt.

3.     The IRS will never ask you to provide your credit or debit card number over the phone.

4.     The IRS will not demand that you pay a tax due without having had the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be due. Generally, the IRS will have sent you a bill asking for payment before contacting you. 

5.     The IRS will not threaten to bring in the local police, immigration officers, or have you arrested or jailed for failure to pay your delinquent taxes.

6.     The IRS cannot take away your driver’s license, your business licenses or your immigration status for failure to pay your outstanding tax liabilties.

7.     Your local TAC office would have no reason to call you as these offices do not handle investigations or collection of delinquent accounts. The purpose of these offices is to provide assistance to taxpayers by answering questions, providing forms, making payment arrangements, etc.

If you are contacted by a scammer, the IRS advises that you report the phone call to them by e-mailing them at phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “IRS Phone Scam”. Additionally, the IRS advises that you also alert the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by filling out the form which can be found at the following link: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml