The phone rings and you pick it up. On the other end, a recording tells you the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. You’re given a phone number to call to get more information about your case. Your heart beats a little bit faster and anxiety rises. The IRS? Lawsuit?
Take a deep breath, exhale and relax. Resist the urge to dial your lawyer. You’ve got nothing to worry about: this phone call is currently being received by people across America. And it’s fake.
There are a few versions of this scam currently circulating. But the essence of the call is the same: the robocaller will say the IRS has made multiple attempts to contact you and a lawsuit is being filed. The voice will advise you to call back – sometimes a number is left, other times it is not. Then a second call often follows, this time with more urgency, threatening to place a lien on assets.
Those who call the scammers back usually end up talking to someone who tries to elicit sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security Number. Sometimes they’ll even know the last few digits already, or offer to send you an email decked out with fake IRS branding to trick you into thinking it’s the real thing. They’ll ask you to wire money or send prepaid debit or credit cards to pay back your debt.
Though the majority of us see through these scams, there are people who fall victim. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), over 3,000 people have been bilked out of over $14 million over the last few years. Nearly 300,000 complaints have been registered with the TIGTA.
The IRS says the scammers have preyed on immigrants – people with less knowledge about the U.S. tax system – in the past. Activity often picks up during the income tax filing season. The agency reminds consumers it never asks for credit or debit card information over the phone. If you receive such a call, you are encouraged to report it to the TIGTA via this online form.