IRS Phone Scams and What to do to Avoid Being Swindled


By John Kohler

Recently, I received a voice message (on my work phone) from "IRS Agent White," who informed me that I have large outstanding balances with the IRS and that there was a warrant issued for my arrest.  Two things stood out to regarding this; first, I know I have no balances with the IRS because I personally prepare and file my tax returns, and secondly, the IRS would not call me, let alone at work, to tell me that there is an outstanding warrant for my arrest as a result of unpaid taxes.  So, to have a little fun and satisfy my curiosity, I called "IRS Agent White" back.  Having dealt with the IRS many times in my ten-plus-year career, I know how a call with an IRS agent goes.  This call was nothing like I had ever dealt with in the past.

The "Agent" picked up the phone directly and did not identify himself as "Agent White," until I told him I had received a call about an IRS issue.  He also could not provide his badge number. I knew that this was a phony call when I received it, but I wanted to inform "Agent White" that he should ensure that he isn't calling an accounting firm attempting to scam people that deal with the IRS regularly.  This has been a common scam even to the point that the IRS issued a special tax tip, dated October 21, 2015, which informed taxpayers of these attempted schemes.  In this tax tip, the IRS states that they will not call taxpayers without first corresponding via U.S. Mail, traditionally certified mail.  The IRS also will not require you to make a payment over the phone or pay the taxes a certain way, i.e., using prepaid debit cards or ask for these numbers over the phone.  The tip also indicates that the IRS will not threaten to bring in the police or other federal agencies for not paying taxes. 

The IRS suggests that if a taxpayer receives an unsolicited call similar to the call that I received from "Agent White" and the taxpayer is unaware of any outstanding tax liability, he/she should hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call.  These thieves are not prejudiced; they are out to swindle anyone they can.  Once this happens, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain the stolen funds. 

Please be vigilant if this happens to you. If you have any questions regarding the IRS's general practices when you believe you owe back-taxes, contact a member of the Schneider Downs tax team, and we can assist you and visit our Tax services page to learn about the services that the Schneider Downs Tax Advisors offer.

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