A reader: I am a business owner and I got a call from the IRS. The caller told me I owed over $12,000 in taxes and that I need to pay right now. They said if I did not pay, that law enforcement officers would come and would most definitely shut my business down and they would probably arrest me too. What do I do?
Action Line: This seems to be a big problem. People from all over the country are getting these types of call, both consumers and businesses. . According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), 90,000 complaints have been filed to date and 1,100 victims have been identified who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.
In order to convince people that they are really IRS agents, the scammers use several tricks including a program to make the IRS’s toll-free number appear on the caller ID, call center background noise, and false agent badge numbers. They use threats of arrest and closure of your business to try to get you to give them payment information. If you give them your bank account info, they will certainly drain your account. If you give them credit card information you can be sure that you will have hefty charges that don’t get paid to the IRS. If you think you really owe the IRS, contact them directly yourself. IRS will not call you.
IRS advises that they:
• Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
• Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
• Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
BBB suggests that you should never give any money or credit card information over the phone to someone that you do not know. If you give out credit card info, you are authorizing that person to add charges to your account. If they ask you to get a preloaded card, and you give them that info they can take all of the money loaded on the card.
Many scammers use scare tactics like the threat of an arrest to get you to give up the info. Don’t do it. If you think you might have some back taxes that need to be paid, call the IRS yourself at (800) 829-1040. Verify it. The scammer might be able to use a real IRS number on the caller ID but if you call the IRS yourself, you can be sure you are talking to an actual IRS agent.
If you have received one of these calls or become a victim, you can call TIGTA at (800) 366-4484 to report. You may also want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov. If you think you have been a victim of this scam please contact us at 1 (800) 675-8118.