IRS Warns of Sophisticated Phone Scam


The Internal Revenue Service warned consumers Thursday about a current phone scam targeting taxpayers across the country.

According to the IRS, scammers are calling and telling victims they owe money to the IRS and asking for payment through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.

Officials say that if the victim refuses, they are often threatened with arrest, deportation or license suspensions. Victims have reported that the caller even became hostile and insulting.

"This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country," said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.

He says the IRS will not call asking for credit card numbers over the phone, or for a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. He warns that threats of arrest and deportation should be taken as an immediate sign that the call is a scam.

Werfel says the IRS would mostly likely first contact taxpayers about issues through the mail.

Details of the scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, the agency advises:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
  • For additional information on this, or any other scam involving the IRS, go to