Beware New Twist on IRS Tax Scam

If someone calls and says they're from the IRS, they're almost certainly not.

(Image credit: (c) Comstock)

Tax scammers are now playing the good cop/bad cop game.

For months, taxpayers have been receiving aggressive and threatening phone calls from crooks who claim to be IRS agents and demand immediate payment of back taxes with a debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license.

If you get such a call, you should, of course, hang up. The IRS’s first contact with taxpayers is NEVER a phone call.

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Now the scheme is morphing into a kinder, gentler scam.

Rather than threatening to have you arrested, the caller claims to be a helpful IRS agent who simply needs to “verify” information in your return.

The pretense is to help you get your refund quickly. But the real goal is to steal your identity by getting you to give up personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account and credit card information.

Again, simply hang up.

“These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns,” warns IRS commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be calling you out of the blue, asking you to verify your personal tax information.” Koskinen says the IRS will NEVER:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
  • Call or e-mail you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the agency says you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or by e-mail.
  • Threaten to have local police or other law-enforcement groups arrest you for not paying.
Kevin McCormally
Chief Content Officer, Kiplinger Washington Editors
McCormally retired in 2018 after more than 40 years at Kiplinger. He joined Kiplinger in 1977 as a reporter specializing in taxes, retirement, credit and other personal finance issues. He is the author and editor of many books, helped develop and improve popular tax-preparation software programs, and has written and appeared in several educational videos. In 2005, he was named Editorial Director of The Kiplinger Washington Editors, responsible for overseeing all of our publications and Web site. At the time, Editor in Chief Knight Kiplinger called McCormally "the watchdog of editorial quality, integrity and fairness in all that we do." In 2015, Kevin was named Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President.