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5 ways to spot suspicious IRS phone calls

In the middle of August, we warned of a widespread Internal Revenue Service phone scam. A caller would often claim to be with the IRS and demand the immediate payment of back taxes.

The con artists use fake names and IRS badge numbers and alter caller ID so it appears the call is from the agency. In a recent press release, the IRS provided five tips for spotting these suspicious phone calls.

The IRS uses formal processes to collect back taxes. Here is the list of five things the IRS will not do:

  • Call on the phone out of the blue - the agency never calls without first mailing a written notice
  • Demand immediate payment - you have the right to question or appeal the amount of taxes the IRS claims that you owe
  • Specify the type of payment - an IRS collections officer will not require that you make a payment with a prepaid debit card
  • Request account information - it's a red flag if the caller requests credit card account information over the phone, because the IRS does not do this
  • Threaten arrest - You generally cannot be arrested for owing back taxes.

When worried that you may owe back taxes, you can contact the IRS directly to discuss the issue. Options exist to challenge back taxes or set up payment arrangements that avoid a lien or seizure of your property.

If you get a call and know that you do not owe taxes, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The Federal Trade Commission also investigates complaints, but requests that you use the comment line "IRS Telephone Scam."

Source: IR-2014-84, "Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways To Spot Suspicious Calls," August 28, 2014.

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