The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Are You Receiving An IRS Phone Scam?
As much as I would love to tell you that the IRS themselves have the job of scamming Americans out of millions of dollars every year, they are legitimately a company employed to rightfully do so by the government of the United States of America in collecting taxes from individuals and companies who do business within the borders of the United States. Unfortunately, there are scam artist companies popping up everyday, and they seem to be very aggressive in the months leading up to tax season, usually starting as early as August or September, acting as if they are the IRS, and they are scamming people out of millions of dollars each year, obtaining phone numbers, and calling and sending text messages and emails, trying to obtain personal information, to which, you must NEVER EVER RESPOND.
Many of the people that are responding are falling into the traps of handing over personal banking information. Once this information is handed over, the process begins of having your entire savings stolen, your personal identity stolen, and a lifelong process of trying to restore your life and get it back in order. Do yourself a favor and never respond to a text message or a phone call. Even if you know you owe the IRS money, make a phone call to an official IRS phone number yourself.
If you have picked up the phone and are talking to an “IRS employee”, tell them you will give them a call back. I am confident that most IRS employees on the other end will completely understand and allow you to call them back. Ask for a number, just in case, so you can compare it with the official number(s) you find on their website. If the IRS ever requests information from you, they will always send a letter to your personal mailing address. Never give your full name, address, or social security number over the phone when responding to a call. If they do happen to call you and they seem legit, ask them if you can give them a call back. You want to be on the calling end, not the receiving end. If they seem impatient or urge you that this must be done immediately, than it is a scam. No IRS employee really cares if you can’t pay “right now”. Eventually, the official IRS will get in touch with you and they will get whatever money you owe. They even have payment plans you can get on and pay a little every month. Go on the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/ and obtain an 800 number through there. That is the only legitimate way to obtain a real phone number to ensure you are calling the real IRS. IRS.GOV is the ONLY LEGITIMATE IRS WEBSITE. NEVER EVER GO ANYWHERE ELSE. The only exception to this rule is if you are doing your taxes through a third-party website, such as TurboTax or H&R Block.
I had been receiving tons of calls on my business phone line lately, from Washington state, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, and many other areas, and soon began receiving text messages as part of the scam, threatening me with a criminal investigation. Here is a real text message sent to my phone:
While I did owe the IRS a few thousand dollars a few years ago, due to not reporting money I made from a second job, I actually eventually paid what I owed and moved on with my life, so I actually have owed them nothing for the past few years, so what they could possibly have had on me was nothing, especially since I claimed 0, 1, 2, or 3, and usually none of these exemptions ever lead me to owing too much or anything at all. Knowing this, I did not panic. With a logical mind, we can take apart this text message:
- “WARNING:(Criminal Investigation Department) I.R.S.” — “Criminal Investigation Department” (I’ve never even heard of this) and the “I.R.S.” have nothing to do with each other, the IRS is its own division and runs its own investigations
- “WARNING:(CRIMINAL” — were they trying to save space by not adding a space?
- “I.R.S.” — not to age myself, but I’ve been paying taxes for longer than a decade and I have never seen the IRS spelled as “I.R.S.”, not in any official documents, not on their website, not on television, not anywhere! There is no government agency known as “I.R.S.”
- it came from number +1 (202) 609-0301
- they want me to call them at +1 (703) 879-8780 — you ever call a government agency at a non-toll-free number? Yeah, me either. A local police department maybe, but not the IRS.
- so it came from one number, but they want me to call them back at another number?
- both number are not 800 numbers, nor are both professional numbers that usually come from government agencies
- “on urgent basis” — what type of English is this?
- “on urgent basis, Otherwise” — Did they forget how to use a period?
- “be frozen by government” — What is up with the very poor English?
- “local police department” — my business phone number is a number from the other side of the United States, to which “local police department” are they referring?
- “your property and bank accounts and social benifits” — how do you freeze property? how do you freeze my bank account without knowing it? how do you freeze my social benifits when I don’t even know what my own social benifits are? By the way, what are social benifits?
- “benifits” — yeah, you noticed I spelled it like they did too, benefits? benifits? Totally legit.
See how far we have come along by taking just a few minutes to break down a text message and not rush to call or text them back and panic. The text message is ridden with mistakes, as most of them are non-professional. Whoever sent this is not a native English speaker. In fact, the English is so poor, whoever sent it is probably from another country. A government agency will most likely never send a text message and if they do, it will likely be from a shortcode number. Not even on September 11, 2001 did my phone receive an alert. Nowadays, I do receive amber alerts from the phone company, but this is an emergency broadcast and usually is not seen as a text message, but as an actual alert of the phone. My life and my time have been saved by just taking a few minutes to analyze the text message and even take 10 or 20 minutes to write this article to share this with you.
Having done some research of people who actually responded, this I.R.S. can be one of many companies, most of them actually are either located in India or are actually operating in the United States. Many of them will actually request that you go to your local Walmart or Walgreens store and buy a gift card, in increments of $100 to $250 to “reduce what you owe” and then read the serial number on the back of the card to them. Have you ever heard of a government agency that needs an Xbox or Playstation card? I don’t care what government officials do when they are off the clock, but they can go buy their own Xbox and Playstation cards. When and if this does happen to you, it is a huge red flag and a scam. People from the IRS would likely to be fired immediately if they ever tried anything like this.
The IRS will never ever contact you to ask you for your personal banking information over the phone or through email or through a text message. They will, however, send you an official document through the United States Postal Service (USPS) as the legitimate way to send you documentation. Otherwise, they will send you to their website via direct connection of typing in www.irs.gov.
If you were not sent a document through the United States Postal Service with a direct address from the IRS with an official document from the IRS or you were not given direction on how to go through the IRS.gov website directly, than do not waste your time, as any other means will potentially get your identity or bank account information stolen. Please be safe and use common sense when it comes to divulging your sacred information. Your personal information is your life and who you are. It is all you have in identifying you and makes you unique. Hold on to it and protect it at all costs.
The IRS will also likely not seek any jail time for you so do not believe any of those threats. As I said above, they are more likely to make deals with you to set you up on a payment plan in order to get the money that you owe. What good are you sitting in a jail cell not making any money to pay the IRS? If you feel threatened at all by the so-called IRS, please call your local police department with the phone number and name of the person who is threatening you and inform them that you are receiving calls of harassment and threats of being thrown in jail if you do not pay them “ransom money”. A local police department should help verify with you whether they are the authentic IRS governmental department or not.
For additional information, please read this information on phishing at the official IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/irs-warns-of-phone-scam