Consumer alert: Beware of ‘epidemic’ IRS phone scam

Long-running nationwide scam continues to target Iowans with threatening calls

DES MOINES – Though it’s been a years-long nationwide scam, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is again alerting Iowans about the ongoing IRS scam now that it is tax filing season.

The IRS scam involves live callers or robocalls purportedly from the IRS regarding supposed back taxes or unpaid penalties. Callers threaten victims with arrest or court actions if they don’t pay immediately through prepaid debit cards, wire transfers or money orders. Criminals often spoof caller-ID devices to display bogus numbers or even legitimate IRS phone numbers.

“This is one of the longest running and most pervasive scams our office has ever encountered,” Miller said. “On a daily basis Iowans continue to complain to our Consumer Protection Division about threatening calls from aggressive people who claim they’re with the IRS and demand immediate payment.”

“The phone fraud scam has become an epidemic, robbing taxpayers of millions of dollars of their money,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said in a new warning issued by TIGTA. “This scam has proven to be the largest of its kind that we have ever seen.”

According to the IRS, the agency generally contacts taxpayers about unpaid taxes through the mail, not by phone. The IRS never requests personal or financial information by email, text messages, or social media.

“If you get a call like this, simply hang up the phone,” Miller said. “Don’t discuss anything with these callers. If you have questions about your status with the IRS, call the IRS.” Consumers who receive the call do not need to notify the Consumer Protection Division, Miller added.

IRS advice to those who receive this type of call:

  • If you owe federal taxes or penalties, or want to confirm whether you do, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS representatives can answer questions about your tax status and payments.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov.
  • The IRS never requests personal information by email, text or social media. If you receive such a message, forward it to phishing [at] irs [dot] gov. Do not open any attachments or click on links contained within those emails.

The Consumer Protection Division has posted a short IRS scam video. The attorney general’s “Consumer Clip” video is posted on an IRS phone scam page on the Attorney General’s website and is also posted on the Attorney General’s YouTube page.

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