Public Service Announcement, Update: Beware of the Million-Dollar IRS Phone Scam

Uncle Sam the Pirate

Uncle Sam isn’t really a pirate . . .


My husband recently returned from India and called my attention to an article in the April 4, 2014 edition of India Abroad: Over 20,000 taxpayers victims of IRS phone scam.” Searching online, I found the same information in an article in the March 21, 2014 edition of the China Securities Journal, IRS watchdog: Phone scam is largest ever,” which reported that US taxpayers have been bilked out of more than $1 million through this frighteningly effective phone scam.

With tax day having descended on us, and having had my own recent encounter with an IRS phone scammer, today seemed a good time to see what the US Treasury Department had to say. I found this warning to taxpayers issued March 20, 2014 by J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA).

Important points from the statement to keep in mind:

  • The . . . IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
  • The callers who commit this fraud often:

– Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
– Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
– Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
– Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
– Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

– If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
– If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
– You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by these callers. And keep your checkbook closed until you’re sure it’s the “real” Uncle Sam contacting you–whatever you may think on April 15, he’s not really a pirate.

PDFs: “Despite awareness, fake calls continue,” India Abroad, April 4, 2014 and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration_Press Release_2014-03-20.


Public Service Announcement to My US Friends: Beware of Yet Another IRS Scam

This happened to me yesterday, and I posted a warning on Facebook. I am reproducing it here to try to alert more people. If anyone has better luck reporting such fraud to the US government than I did, I’d like to hear how they managed it. As tax season is upon is, I think we can expert more of the same. These people have just enough information to scare the unsuspecting. Be careful out there.


BEWARE–LATEST IRS PHONE SCAM: Today I received a call from 716-442-3058. A man with an Asian accent claiming to be from the IRS asked for me by name. Of course, I recognized this as fraud when he told me the IRS was about to take me to court after I didn’t respond to a letter they had sent me last June. I asked him questions to force him to reveal himself, and he gave me his name (“Mike Jones”) and Employee ID No. (20226) and said he was from the “Phila-New York” office. I asked him to fax me a copy of the letter, and of course he couldn’t. I asked him to give me the case number, and of course he couldn’t. I asked him to tell me how he got my phone number, and of course he couldn’t/wouldn’t. He referred me to my “case worker,” someone purportedly named “James Morgan” at–yes–the same exact phone number. He hung up, sounding nervous. I called the number, challenged the Asian-accented man who answered saying “IRS” by telling him this couldn’t possibly be the IRS, and he called me a “stupid asshole” and hung up. The IRS is aware of various scams, and everyone else should be as well: IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam.

The IRS advises the following:

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
•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.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I called the 800 number above and heard the most ridiculously long voice menu ever about various tax-related problems (alert the press). None of the options pertained to phone scams. It was a legitimate number, though–only the US government could create a voice recording almost as long as the tax code. I’ll try to find another way to report the fraud, but I’m not optimistic. Just be careful.