Remember that IRS phone scam I told you about last year? Well, it's back. Criminals posing as IRS agents are calling people nationwide in an attempt to steal their hard-earned money.
The criminals can be very convincing, because they will usually have stolen personal information about you like a home address or even your Social Security number! They'll tell you a bogus story about how you owe outstanding taxes because of a miscalculation on an old tax return.
Then, the thieves will ask you to pay back the difference immediately with a credit card, wire transfer or a MoneyPak card. MoneyPak cards are like a prepaid debit card you can buy at most convenient stores and Walmart.
Federal authorities said Wednesday that as many as 1,100 people across the country have lost $5 million to con artists who tell people they will be arrested if they don't immediately pay thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.
If you refuse to pay, the scammers will threaten to have local law enforcement sent to your home. Even if you hang up, they'll probably call back claiming to be police officers on the way to arrest you.
The government is investigating the scam right now, but won't say if it has found the criminals responsible yet. Federal authorities have also notified most stores that sell MoneyPaks, so they can warn customers who might be falling for the scam.
Don't get scammed
The easiest way to protect yourself from these thieves is to simply hang up the phone. The IRS will never call you asking for payment over the phone, so you can tell it's a scam right away.
If they call back - and they probably will - just keep hanging up. Don't let them scare you with empty threats of arrest or police involvement.
You should also report the calls to help out in the investigation. The IRS is asking all victims to report bogus calls to the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.
If the scammers are calling you, that probably means that they've already got a hold of your personal information. That means they can do a whole lot more than make fake phone calls. Click here to learn how to protect yourself from identity thieves.