It’s that time of the year again – tax season. And with tax season comes fake IRS and Social Security Administration phone calls.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration, do not give the caller any information. Unless you’re already working with someone from the IRS or the Social Security Administration, the IRS and Social Security Administration will not call you. Ever.
The same goes for any other government tax body – state or local. They are required by law to notify you in writing and will not call you.
How can you tell the IRS call is fake? Here are some clues:
- The caller speaks in a heavily accented voice.
- The caller identifies themselves simply as the Internal Revenue Service, without identifying themselves personally. IRS agents will state their name at the outset.
- The caller does not give you an ID number. IRS agents will always give you a badge ID number at the beginning of the call: “Hello, this is Revenue Officer Smith with the Internal Revenue Service, my badge ID is 1134522…”
- The caller tells you the sheriff is coming to arrest you. The IRS has a Criminal Investigation Division that carries badges and guns and has the power to arrest. They don’t need the sheriff.
- The caller tells you that you will be sued for back taxes. The IRS doesn’t sue anyone – they have the power to levy and to seize assets, so they don’t need to.
- The caller tells you that you need to pay in gift cards (by purchasing the cards in $100 increments, then calling them and giving them the card numbers). Yeah, sounds silly, but people fall for this all the time. As you might guess, the IRS does not shop at Rite-Aid.
- The caller pressures you to act immediately, without consulting anyone else. This is a common trick with con artists/scammers to keep you from getting off of the phone. They know if you do, they’re likely to lose you.
If you get a call that has any of the above elements – or if you’re not sure what to do – hang up, and let us know. We can determine if the call is legitimate or not, and let you know what to do.
For Social Security Administration calls: ask the caller for the agent number, claim number and write down the number the call is coming from. Then tell the caller you will call the SSA directly and hang up. Do NOT engage with the caller any further. Please notify us of such calls and we will determine next steps.
Please note, these scammers tend to target certain demographics: People with foreign-sounding names, the elderly (who tend to be very susceptible to these), and people who have IRS liens in their names (liens are public documents). If anyone you know falls into one of these categories, don’t hesitate to share this with them.
For more info, see the IRS webpage on this issue.
Lastly, if you have already received a similar call and possibly given out personal information, please let us know immediately so that we can walk through the appropriate next steps with you.
**Special thanks to Cynthia Shapiro & Gabbie Specter for their contributions towards this piece.**