A woman’s voice says “The IRS is calling me? Is this for real?”
Then you hear the announcer saying simply “Fraud is real.”
That excerpt is from a new public service announcement (PSA) recently put out by the Internal Revenue Service. It’s an effort to combat what’s now commonly known as the “IRS Scam.” (A caller claims to be an IRS agent and tells the person answering that back taxes are owed. And that immediate payment is required or the police will be called. Some receiving the calls have been intimidated enough to offer payment over the phone in the form of a debit or credit card number or going to get a Green Dot card to send the money off. )
The IRS says well over $25 million has been scammed from innocent taxpayers. The PSAs (there are five and some are in Spanish as well as English) are an effort to let people know this is likely not the IRS calling and it’s okay to follow your instincts and hang up on the caller.
U.S. Treasury Deputy Tim Camus told NBC News “It makes me angry because I feel first of all bad for the victims and then I feel angry that these criminals are using the IRS as a means to scare people into paying them money.”
A few years back the scammers targeted immigrants and threatened deportation. Now the crooks have moved to everybody else. “Early in the scam the callers had some sort of information about you, they may have four digits of your Social Security number, now they’re just randomly making blanket calls. And they’ve also shifted now to also calling cell phones. So that’s even a new development in the scam,” says Camus.
The IRS says if you honestly do owe back taxes, the first step is usually a letter telling you that you owe and must pay. After that, taxpayers often contact the IRS themselves to set up a payment plan.
Officials say if you receive a call that makes you nervous and someone is threatening you immediately with jail if you don’t pay them that day, it’s a scam. Save your money and peace of mind. Hang up.