‘You are in trouble with IRS’ — probably not, says BBB

Caller to BBB “I am very worried. I just got a recorded message on my phone from the IRS. They said that I was under investigation and they were taking me to the grand jury for failure to pay back taxes. I know it was real, the caller ID said IRS. They left a phone number, and when I called them back they said that I was in serious trouble. They offered to drop the prosecution if I paid the back taxes, which were $2,000. I don’t have that kind of money and they said if I didn’t send it today they would proceed with the prosecution. My friend Sheila said to call BBB and see if you knew anything about this. Can you help me?”

Cindi at BBB: Ma’am, don’t believe it. Recorded messages (robocalls) from the IRS are a complete scam. They are really increasing as the tax season starts, and BBB has done scores of warnings to consumers to not believe them. Here’s what you need to know:

· Don’t believe Caller ID. Scammers can easily “spoof” the display, making it say IRS, CDC, Social Security or anything they want it to say.

· The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. One absolute red flag is the demand that you go to the store and buy gift cards to pay the back taxes. This is nonsense. No government agency or company asks you to pay bills with gift cards. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who they believe owes taxes.

· The IRS will never threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

· They will never demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

· IRS will never call unexpectedly about a tax refund.

· Taxpayers who receive these phone calls should record the number and then hang up the phone immediately.

· Report the call to the Treasury Inspector General using their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Form or by calling 800-366-4484. · You can also report the number to [email protected] and be sure to put “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.

· If you have been cheated by this scam, file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Just Google IC3. And you should report the call to the BBB Scam Tracker web site so we can warn others.