Tax season is underway, and unfortunately that means that phone scam season is also in full swing. Every year, the Internal Revenue Service sees a surge in scam phone calls to taxpayers, and each year the scammers seem to become more sophisticated and aggressive when targeting us. According to the IRS, scammers have bilked Americans out of more than $63 million in the past six years. The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL) wants to ensure that you’re aware of these scams—and that you know what to do if a scammer tries to contact you.
Most of these scams come in the form of phone calls claiming to be from the IRS. Potential phone scam victims are often told they owe money that must be paid immediately. Fake “IRS agents” may threaten their victims with arrest, prison, deportation, or other penalties if they don’t pay a bogus tax bill. When unsuccessful on the first attempt, phone scammers may call back trying a new strategy.
To try to fool their victims, scammers may use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They may be able to recite the last four digits of our Social Security numbers, or even make it look like the IRS is calling by spoofing the IRS toll-free number on our caller IDs. If they know our email addresses, they may even send bogus IRS emails to their victims to support their phone calls.
While the situation may seem helpless, there are some important facts to keep in mind if you think you may be the target of a potential IRS scam. First, the IRS will always send taxpayers written notification via U.S. mail—not a phone call, not an email, and not a text message. The IRS never asks for credit or debit card information or bank account numbers over the phone, and will never demand immediate payment over the phone. And even if you owe the IRS money, agents will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation.
While it’s important to recognize these scams, its equally as important to report them so our friends, families, and neighbors don’t fall victim. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, politely hang up then do one of these two things:
If you owe taxes—or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at their phone number: 800-829-1040. The IRS employee on the phone can help you with your payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes—or if the caller makes threats of arrest, deportation, or something similar, report the call t
o the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.
Your local Area Agency on Aging has resources and information on how seniors can protect themselves from identity theft and other scams. You can call AAASWFL’s Elder Helpline at 866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER) to request materials or a presentation on these topics and other forms of financial abuse and fraud.
We can only stop scams like these by recognizing them when they happen and reporting them to the authorities. Let’s all do our part.