The Dirty Dozen is an annually compiled list by the IRS showing a variety of scams, including phone scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so.
Today I was sitting at home, minding my own business when I received a call from a number based out of Chicago. I answered and heard a pre-recorded voice saying, “This is the IRS. We have been attempting to reach you. The IRS has filed a lawsuit against you. You must call 773-269-3240 immediately. There will be no further warning.”
Immediately, I called the number to find out what was going on with this. The call was answered by a man obviously working from a call center, as I could hear dozens of other “officers” in the room. The man on the phone asked my name, I gave it. He asked my address and I gave him one of where I used to live. Then he did something surprising– he told me my Social Security number and followed it up by saying I have a lawsuit against me for $10,437.89 and that I must pay one-tenth of this amount in full by 5 p.m. today.
As a journalist, I decided to take this call as far as I could to see what happened. I explained that I did not want to go to jail, so I would pay this today. I spoke with Officer Jay Wilson, id# IRM2211. Officer Wilson informed me of the five primary allegations against me: Violation of Internal Revenue Code, Violation of Tax Regulation, Theft by Deception, Intentional Misappropriation of Funds, Misappropriation of Funds.
Apparently, I had been stealing funds for the past seven years. A lien on my bank accounts, cars, and houses would be in place within 24 hours. My social security number will be black listed and I would no longer be eligible for any federal benefits, and would be sent to federal prison. My case number is CPF4051A. By the end of the court process, with fees and all, I will end up paying $75,438.89 and would “reap all the punishments for my deception.” I was then told that I would be placed on hold for a supervisor who would handle my case. Before being transferred, I explained that I am a journalist and asked if he would like to make a comment for the media on what he is doing; the call was disconnected.
Naturally, I called back. I couldn’t simply let this go on without my attention. The person on this call gave me the same spill of threats with a new list of charges completely different from before as well as a new case number. I waited before I outed myself this time until I was given the supervisor. I was placed on hold and transferred to supervisor. The conversation was interesting:
IRS Supervisor: By now, your situation was explained to you, correct?
Me: Yes, in great detail.
IRS Supervisor: Was your miscalculation was a mistake or intentional?
Me: It was a mistake.
IRS Supervisor: Would you like to make a payment outside of court or be arrested at work tomorrow?
Me: I will pay it all today.
IRS Supervisor: You have that much money on you right now?
Me: Well, not on me. It’s in the bank. Only criminals carry that much cash on them.
IRS Supervisor: Then I need you to get your license and go to your car.
Me: *after a few moments of jingling keys* I am in my car.
IRS Supervisor: Honk your horn.
Me: Really? That’s what you want?
IRS Supervisor: Oh, shut up. M*ther f*cker.
The call was disconnected.
The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams when con artists threaten arrest, deportation, and license revocation among other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con artists that arise during any filing season and after.
“Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you’re not hearing from us.”
Earlier this year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.
“There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment,” Koskinen added. “Some schemes may say you’re entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble. Some simple tips can help protect you.”
Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
Here are five things that often occur in phone scams but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
5 Things the IRS Will Never Do
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report phone scams. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.