People are receiving more robocalls than ever. In fact, August was a record-breaking month with over 2.8 billion robocalls made within the U.S. The total number of robocalls made to Americans through the first nine months of 2017 was 22.5 billion. Yikes!
Another scary statistic is the number of scam robocalls that are being made. In September, nearly 20 percent of all robocalls were scams. That's a whopping 480 million, which is an estimated two scam calls per U.S. adult.
Now, there's a new scam call making the rounds that you must watch out for. I received this one myself.
The scam starts with fear
I'm talking about a new twist to an IRS scam call. I received a call the other day that showed up on caller ID as the IRS. When I answered, the woman on the line said, "You're in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service."
She went on to claim that I was delinquent in paying my taxes and the IRS even suspected fraudulent activity. She told me that I could go to jail for up to seven years.
Here's one of the first clues that the call was a scam. I asked the woman what I could do to remedy the situation and she didn't know the definition of "remedy." I needed to clarify, so I used the word "fix" instead.
She said she would step in on my behalf and help me out. I supposedly owed $4,587.35 and the woman wanted me to pay immediately. Otherwise, the IRS would charge interest at a rate of 18 percent.
She wanted me to give her my credit card number over the phone to pay the bill and made it clear that she couldn't accept American Express. I guess the IRS is choosy that way.
When I asked to speak with her supervisor, she said that person was unavailable at the moment. She then warned that I should just pay her now because time is ticking and interest was adding up. Clearly, this was an amateur fraudster that I was dealing with and was able to thwart the attack.
In the past, receiving a collection call from the IRS like this would never happen. That's because the IRS policy is not to make unsolicited phone calls for debt collection. Instead, it sends out notification letters encouraging those behind on their taxes to call them.
However, this year, the IRS began using private collection agencies to try and collect debts. Still, you won't receive a call like this without getting numerous notification letters through the U.S. Mail system.
How to identify a phone scam
The IRS understands that phone scams are on the rise and is telling taxpayers what to watch out for.
- Expect written correspondence - The IRS recently started using private collection agencies to try and recover taxes that are owed. However, the IRS will give taxpayers and their representatives written notice that the accounts are being transferred to private collection agencies before you are contacted by the private collection agency. The agency will send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming this transfer.
- Electronic Payment - Private collection agencies will NOT ask for payment on a prepaid debit, iTunes or gift card. Taxpayers will be informed about electronic payment options on IRS.gov.
- Checks - Payment by check should be payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, not the private collection agency.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to collect an IRS debt, it could be a scam. If you are concerned that the call is a scam, ask the alleged representative for their toll-free number. Here are the four private collection agencies that the IRS will assign cases to:
- CBE - P.O. Box 2217 Waterloo, IA 50704 1-800-910-5837
- ConServe - P.O. Box 307 Fairport, NY 14450-0307 1-844-853-4875
- Performant - P.O. Box 9045 Pleasanton, CA 94566-9045 1-844-807-9367
- Pioneer - P.O. Box 500 Horseheads, NY 14845 1-800-448-3531
If you're skeptical about the agent on the phone, get their company information, phone number and extension. Then call the company's official toll-free number listed above.
The IRS also urges you to stay vigilant against tax scams from anyone claiming to be collecting on the agency's behalf. Even with private debt collection, you shouldn't receive unexpected phone calls from the IRS demanding payment. When people owe tax, the IRS always sends several collection notices through the mail before making phone calls.
Make sure that you share this article with family and friends so they know what to watch for. Simply click the share button on the left side of the page to post it to Facebook. It could save thousands of dollars.
Speaking of fraudulent calls, did you know that scammers will now call you from your own number?
With the recent onslaught of robocalls and scams, it's best just to let your phone go to voicemail. It’s a lot tougher to do when your caller ID appears to be from a familiar number or company. But you won't believe this. Scammers are now pretending to be you!