The IRS has long warned taxpayers to be on the look-out for deceptive phone calls from criminals posing as IRS agents. These scams were once thought to target the elderly, those within specific socioeconomic groups, or those who recently immigrated to the United States. However, based on the anecdotal evidence I have gathered over the past several years, I don’t think these criminals go through the trouble of targeting specific groups. Perhaps they did at one time, but now they appear to be just “shooting from the hip” hoping to deceive even a small fraction of the taxpayers that they contact each day.
I have seen how prevalent these phone scams have been in Sacramento, and now with our new office location, I can see that the scams are no less of an issue in the Central Valley towns of Modesto, Ceres, and Turlock. I was recently privileged to hear a recording of one of these calls and, I must say, the caller’s voice was very confident and convincing. Of course, the content of what he was saying was laughable, but the tone of the call was professional and authoritative. I say that about the content because I know what the IRS will and will not say in a phone message. First of all, the IRS is reluctant to provide details of anyone’s confidential tax account in a voice mail message unless you have previously given them permission to do so. Second, the IRS does not, in their first contact with a taxpayer, jump right into statements about criminal liability, subpoenas, and arrest warrants. And the IRS never asks for payments to be made immediately over the phone. Furthermore, if you do have a tax problem of some kind, such as owing back taxes or missing tax returns, the first contact from the IRS will be by way of a letter, not a phone call.
My anecdotal evidence seems to confirm what the IRS is reporting about phone scams: 90,000 complaints and growing. The best way to report one of these phone calls is to complete an online scam reporting form which is accessible from TIGTA’s website.