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Telephone Scams On The Rise


Mobile phone with scam and fraud message speech bubbleThe IRS renewed its warning to taxpayers about telephone scams orchestrated by criminals impersonating government employees. These criminals are seeking important taxpayer identification information that they can use to file fraudulent tax refund claims on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers. This is one of many types of scams used to obtain such information. The IRS has cautioned that this scam in particular is growing and urged taxpayers to be vigilant. The IRS reported that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received some 90,000 complaints about telephone scams. Approximately 1,100 individuals have suffered an estimated $5 million in losses, the agency added.


Typically, scammers will contact individuals by phone and threaten them with jail time or revocation of their driver's licenses if they do not make a payment by prepaid debit card. Scammers spoof IRS telephone numbers on caller ID to make it appear that the call is originating from the agency. However, the IRS never asks for debit or credit card information over the telephone. The agency also stresses that it never insists that a taxpayer use one specific type of payment method. For example, scammers have been known to force taxpayers to submit tax payments by prepaid debit card, the usage of which is difficult for law enforcement officials to trace.

Furthermore, legitimate IRS officials will never request a taxpayer to make an immediate payment over the telephone. Nor will the IRS proceed with enforcement action immediately after ending a phone call. Taxpayers should contact the IRS if they have any questions about taxes they may owe or refunds they may be expecting, the agency emphasized.

Other indications that a phone caller purporting to be from the IRS is a scammer include:

  • The caller recites the last four digits of a taxpayer's Social Security number;
  • The taxpayer receives emails, ostensibly from the IRS, that support a scammer's call (The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via emails);
  • After the taxpayer receives a threatening phone call from a purported IRS official, he or she then receives a call from someone claiming to work for the local police department or motor vehicle association.

Hemmann_DarlaFor more information, please contact your Brown Smith Wallace Tax Advisor, or Darla Hemmann, at 314.983.1203 or

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