When we say "scam," you probably think of phishing emails or malicious Facebook posts, but the most common type of scam in America is actually the phone scam. With everyone on their guard against scams on newer technology, scammers find a more success on older technology.
One of the phone scams that keeps coming back is the IRS scam. It popped up again recently in Berkshire Country, Massachusetts, and could be spreading to your home soon. You need to know how it works before you pick up the phone so you aren't fooled.
The IRS scam involves a caller pretending to be from the IRS. They'll claim that you have unpaid taxes and if you don't send them the money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card right away, they'll have the police arrest you.
In another variation, they might say that you have a refund you didn't know about and they need your bank account information to transfer the money. They might ask for your Social Security number and other sensitive information to prove you're the right person.
The prospects of going to jail or getting more money are enough to fool every typically cautious people, especially when the IRS is involved. So, here are five ways you know that these calls are fake.
- 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.