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Summer brings surge in “robo-call” phone scams

IR 2016-99

In an Information Release, IRS has warned taxpayers of an increase in IRS impersonation scams that employ automated phone calls demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

IRS has seen an increase in phone “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. When the taxpayer calls back, the scammers may threaten the taxpayer with arrest, deportation, or revocation of their driver’s license if they don’t agree to pay.

IRS cautions that, in the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.

IRS notes that fake calls can take many forms and that scammers are constantly changing their strategies. Other tactics may include:

…demanding payment for a non-existent “Federal Student Tax”;
…soliciting Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) information from payroll and human resources professionals;
…”verifying” tax return information over the phone; or
…pretending to be from the tax preparation industry.

IRS advises that knowing the telltale signs of an impersonator is the best way to avoid becoming a victim. Taxpayer should be aware that IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, or call about taxes owed without first having mailed the taxpayer a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that the taxpayer pay taxes without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say is owed.
  • Require that the taxpayer use a specific payment method for the taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If an individual gets a phone call from someone claiming to be from IRS and asking for money and the individual doesn’t owe taxes, the taxpayer should not give out any information. Instead, he should hang up immediately; contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call (on their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484); and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (using “FTC Complaint Assistant” on , and adding “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes). If taxpayer thinks he might owe taxes, he should call IRS directly at 800-829-1040.