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Telephone Scams Tops List of IRS “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2015

Each year the IRS publishes a list of what it coins as the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.  The list contains a variety of common tax scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime, although many of the schemes peak during filing season as taxpayers file their returns.  Unlike previous years, the IRS is releasing its 2015 “Dirty Dozen” over the course of 12 business days in order to raise consumer awareness.

Topping this year’s list is aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents.

In the past year there has been a surge of phone scams in which scammers impersonate IRS agents and call taxpayers demanding payment for taxes that are purportedly owed for previous tax periods.  As part of the tax scam, the scammers will threaten their targets with levies, arrest, license revocation, and other things if the taxes are not paid immediately.

Scammers are able to alter their caller ID numbers to make it look like they are calling from the IRS.  They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers.  The scammers target individuals who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly and recent immigrants.

It is not atypical for the scammer to indicate that the taxpayer owes taxes for a previous tax year, and that the phone call is to follow up because the taxpayer victim has not responded to IRS notices that have been sent.  If the taxpayer denies that taxes are owed, the scammer may claim that the return was audited, the taxpayer did not report all his income, or the IRS made other changes to a filed return.

As part of the tax scam, the person claiming to be from the IRS will demand that his target immediately send a payment or could face levy or arrest.  One method of payment the scammer will identify as acceptable is a Green Dot card (similar to a prepaid credit card).  The scammer will ask the victim to purchase a prepaid debit card, and transmit the information to the scammer which the scammer will use to drain the funds.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have collectively paid over $14 million as a result of the tax scam, in which scammers make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.

Protect Yourself 

It is not difficult to know or discover when a supposed IRS caller is a fake.  Any of the following items is a tell-tale sign of a scam:

The IRS will never:

  • Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment. Nor will the IRS call about taxes owed without having first mailed the taxpayer a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Contact you via email, text message, or social media to discuss your personal tax issue.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a Green Dot card or prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you do get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, you should:

  • Do not give out your personal information, including your social security number.
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to obtain information about whether you owe any taxes, and, if so, whether there is a specific IRS employee assigned to your account.
  • Report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at
  • Also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

If you do owe taxes to the IRS and are need of assistance, the attorneys at the Politte Law Offices can help.  We will contact the IRS on your behalf to discuss options that may be available, such as being placed in currently not collectible status, or entering into an installment agreement or offer in compromise.  Contact us today!

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