We took a call this afternoon at the office from a loyal KCOW listener who told us about receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of the Internal Revenue Service. Our listener was smart enough to identify the call as a scam–an attempt to collect personal information (and, perhaps, arrange a payment).
These types of phone scams are, unfortunately, extremely common. Throughout the year you might get suspicious sounding calls from thickly-accented would-be thieves. Perhaps they’re demanding payment on a loan you never took out. Or, they could be masquerading as an operator from the Windows help desk. The goal is always the same: to scare you into giving up personal information or allowing access to your bank account.
Since the IRS scam is especially popular this time of year, let’s address it head-on. According to the official IRS website:
The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
The reason thieves keep trying the IRS phone scam–and many of them succeed– can be expressed in one word: fear. Again, from the IRS website:
Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile – apparently to scare their potential victims.
If you get one of these calls–or any call you suspect of being a phone scam–the best thing to do is simply hang up. Or, if you have caller ID and a laptop handy, Google the phone number. There’s a variety of “scam watch” websites that might be able to confirm your suspicions.
The bottom line: this tax season, if Uncle Sam thinks you owe him some money, he’ll do his business via the U.S. Mail.