The Phone Scam Even You Could Fall For

Don’t be tricked by the popular IRS scam calls requesting money or threatening arrest.

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Photo by Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

If you get a call from the IRS asking for money—hang up—it’s not the IRS. Con artists have been attempting to trick citizens for years by posing as the IRS and claiming to be owed money. While some people recognize the scam immediately—others are not so lucky.

To help combat the issue, the IRS has started compiling an annual “Dirty Dozen” report chronicling a variety of common scams. Beyond just fraudulent phone calls, the IRS lists many possible scams including identity theft, fake charities soliciting donations, and more. The nefarious phone calls tend to pick up speed during filing months and often continue during tax-return season.

Recently, a man in the Madison area of Wisconsin received a phone call from an individual who claimed that a lawsuit had been filed against him and a warrant was out for his arrest, reported the Wisconsin State Journal.

As a general rule of thumb, never trust someone asking for money over the phone. To be extra cautious, if you receive a call from a credit card company (or any other company that requires personal identification information), it's good practice to return their call using a number you know to be secure (one on an official website or on the back of your credit card, for example).

According to the IRS website, the government agency would never establish communication through a cold-call, threaten legal action, or ask for sensitive information over the phone like these scammers do.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement last updated in September 2016. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

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If you do receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from the IRS, hang up and call the agency at 1-800-829-1040. A representative can clarify whether or not you do actually owe any money. If you know you don't have any outstanding tax bills, you can report the potential criminal activity by calling 1-800-366-4484. You can also file a formal complaint by using the FTC complaint assistant.