- The IRS will mail you an official bill on government stationery before it calls. If you do get a call, it shouldn't be a surprise.
- You can question or appeal the amount you owe before paying. There's no reason to rush.
- The IRS won't ask you to use a certain type of payment, such as insisting you use a wire transfer.
- The IRS won't ask for payment information over the phone, or any other sensitive information.
- The IRS won't threaten to have the local police come and arrest you for not paying.
If you do get a call from the "IRS" out of the blue, it's probably a scam. If you feel pressured in taking action of some kind, it's definitely a scam.
If you aren't sure, get the name of the person who called you, and the branch they're calling from. You can also ask if there's a reference number for your case. Then go look up the phone number for that IRS office and call it directly. That should set the matter straight very quickly.
This scam isn't the only way hackers can use the IRS to get you. See what a fake IRS email looks like so you aren't fooled. Then, find out how hackers can steal your tax return and what you can do before the next tax season to stop it.