The IRS is one of those government agencies that seem a little mysterious. And, well, even a little scary. Everyone wants their refund. But nobody wants to mess with the IRS. Which is exactly why scammers are able to get your attention – and many times, your money.
There are several versions floating around, but here’s one of the most common. Your phone rings. The caller says they’re from the IRS. You owe money from unpaid back taxes – and if you don’t pay? Well, you’ll be arrested.
The truth is, the callers sound official. They’ll usually give you a name (although probably not a real one), and even a badge number. They may tell you to wire money right away. They often say if you don’t pay within a certain period of time, they have an arrangement with local law enforcement that’ll show up at your door. They may have your name and social security number so it must be real, right? No.
What if you aren’t home – or just don’t answer? Then they leave an ominous message along the same lines. But all you hear is your name, and the words “IRS,” “court date scheduled,” and “it’s imperative that you call this number right away.” Your caller ID may even say ”IRS.” But that doesn’t make it real. And it’s not.
Just as fishy is the official-looking IRS “phishing” email scam. Here’s how it works. You get an email – this time, announcing good news. It may say, “Click here for information regarding your refund.” Well, who doesn’t like a refund? You may be tempted to click, but no matter how authentic the email looks, don’t do it. Don’t click! If you do, a couple of things could occur. One is that you’ll download a virus that’s able to hack into your computer files. But even if that doesn’t happen, the “fake IRS” may ask for personal information that you should never give out unless you initiated the call or email. These include your social security number, bank account information, and credit card numbers.
Here’s what the real IRS wants you to know:
- The IRS does not call people to collect back taxes. So unless you called them first, any call from someone claiming to be the IRS is probably a scam.
- The IRS will not threaten arrest or imprisonment.
- They won’t take away your driver’s license, deport you, or foreclose on your house.
- They will never expect you to wire them money.
- If you get such a call, hang up.
- If you receive a phone message like this, do not return the call.
- The IRS doesn’t contact people by email.
- If the IRS does need to contact you, they’ll do it by official (snail) mail.
- The IRS doesn’t threaten taxpayers for payments.
So as you get ready to file last year’s taxes, don’t let these scammers fool you. And if you do happen to owe back taxes, it’s okay. The IRS says they’re happy to set up a payment plan that works for both parties.