Business & Real Estate

Phony IRS calls try to scare taxpayers into paying up

The IRS is warning consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, here and nationwide.

Victims are told they owe the IRS money that must be paid promptly through a wire transfer or pre-loaded debit card. If they refuse to cooperate, victims are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting, according to the IRS.

An Elk Grove woman, who speaks mostly Spanish, apparently is one of the intended victims, according to the Northeast California Better Business Bureau. In early October, the woman received several calls theatening jail time if she didn’t pay an IRS tax bill using a prepaid debit card, said BBB spokeswoman Bianca Johnson. Wisely, Johnson said, the woman refused and asked the caller to mail her documentation. She then contacted the BBB.

Similar attempts at scamming individuals have occured nationwide, according to the BBB, including one case in St. Louis where an immigrant couple from India put $10,000 on a debit card that was sent to a phony IRS agent.

The scammers typically use common names, offer fake ID badge numbers and often know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number. They may spoof the phone’s caller ID, so it appears to be from the IRS. They often follow up with emails that appear to be from the IRS or with calls pretending to be from local police or DMV officials.

Other recent scams involve phony IRS solitications about lottery sweepstakes or debt relief.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that it typically contacts individuals by mail, never by phone, texts, email or social media. Not does it ask for credit card numbers, PINs or other financial information. If you think you owe taxes and need help, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Report scam attempts to the federal Treasury Inspector General at (800) 366-4484 and to the Federal Trade Commission at