How to Spot IRS Phone Scams

If someone calls demanding money for IRS tax, is this a legitimate call? Probably not, because IRS just doesn’t make collection phone calls.

One of the more popular scams now is the caller who threatens to arrest you today. Usually a male voice, he will claim to be an “IRS Revenue Officer”. The caller will provide a name (no, it’s not his real name), and maybe even a badge number. (The badge number is fake too!) The cure to avoid jail? Give this authoritative-sounding “Officer” your credit or debit card information, and allow him to collect a payment. Usually, they demand a few thousand dollars. Sometimes the toll is only a few hundred.

This trickery has morphed into other forms. Callers claim to be from Social Security Administration, U.S. State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Drug Enforcement. The call is meant to intimidate the recipient. And it works! The very call is entirely upsetting.

The clear problems with this are that these predators operate on fear, a lack of information, and then disinformation. They are hard to stop, because the scam-call-centers are located outside of the United States.

I posted a video on the subject, below:

These people are actors, trained to the scam. And they sound so real, so genuine!


But almost is good enough to cause some elderly person to become victim to credit card fraud. Or some young college student to fall for identity theft. Or for a busy small business owner in a hurry, to provide information that later compromises the company’s payroll bank funds. These are all real stories.
So how do you tell the scammer from a real government agent?

Best “Short-List” Tips to Combat IRS Phone Scams:
• When your caller ID reads “Potential Spam”, that’s also “Potential Scam”! Avoid the call.
• They leave messages. Listen to the message, and take notes. Write down the phone number.
• Remember that government branches and agencies never call to announce an arrest. Never. They just make the arrest. They don’t telephone a warning so that you can hide. Right?
• Information neutralizes fear. Share the details. Post them on social media.
• You can report this fraud to it to the IRS. (IRS might even pay you later, if the government recovers any money.)
• If you fear this may be a genuine danger to you, work through an attorney that handles tax fraud matters. That lawyer will know how to keep your information private, and you protected.
• If you just have to call (because you are curious) provide no information, but take more notes. Repeat, provide no information.

(Here’s another link to that video, in case you missed it.)

IRS tax scams take other forms, too. It’s not just callers, or even people from outside the U.S.

Every year, thousands of honest, hard-working taxpayers are taken advantage of by dishonest return preparers. Those companies advertising “the biggest refund” tend to be those that will unlawfully manipulate your correct tax return. Instead, some may file for a bloated refund, which financially benefits you both – at first. But later, if you are audited and walk away with an IRS Notice of Tax Due, those “biggest-refund” preparers will instantly blame you for negligence.

There’s another scam with some so-called “tax resolution companies”. No one can quote a specific result from an Offer-in-Compromise settlement unless they get to know a great amount of your financial details first. Fair warning: if the deal sounds too good to be true, get proof!

Be careful. Choose your tax professionals wisely. Find lawyers, CPA’s and tax professionals with a proven record of knowledge, results, and trust. Trustworthiness is our best credential. Everything begins with trust.

Writer: J Anton Collins is a Tax Lawyer, Retired CPA (Former IRS). He is the lead attorney for Tax Law Offices and Business Tax Settlement Corp.