IRS & Government Phone Scams: Everything You Need to Know
"Nothing is certain but death and taxes," said Benjamin Franklin a very, very long time ago. Try as you might, but you can't escape paying taxes. The government will definitely make sure of that.
So what do you do if someone phones you and says you owe taxes — and you need to cough up now. Should you pay? Put down the phone? "Won't I get in trouble?" you wonder. "Won't I go to jail?"
This is the predicament people across the United States face every single day. It goes something like this:
- Someone calls.
- They say they're from the IRS.
- They claim money is owed.
- They want that money right now. No ifs or buts.
What if we told you that these calls might not be what they seem?
Fraudsters use tax scams all the time to try to steal your money. You don't really owe tax. They just want to take your bank details.
Sometimes scammers say you owe taxes to the IRS. Sometimes they claim you're owed a tax refund. Sometimes it's not about taxes at all...
Scammers use all kinds of methods to trick you. They might claim to be from Immigration Services. Or the Department of Health and Human Services. Hey, they might even claim to be from the CIA or FBI.
Scammers lie, cheat, and deceive. Never trust them. If you do, you could lose your hard-earned money. Sometimes all it takes is a single telephone call. A call that lasts just a few minutes.
The problem with government scams is that so many people fall victim to them. And for very good reason. If someone receives a call from the government, they want to stay on the line. But you need to be sure about the caller before you exchange any information...
This is where RoboKiller's Phone Lookup service comes in. It's a useful tool that lets you search for numbers you've received on your phone — and find out the true identity of mystery callers. Within seconds, you can find out whether someone is really calling from the government — or if they're just another scam artist.
Used in conjunction with the RoboKiller app, it can be a great weapon in the fight against scam calls. This way, you can find out who's calling you and prevent dangerous calls from reaching you in the future.
Want to discover whether the calls you receive are legit? Type in unknown numbers here and find out in just a few seconds.
- What are Government Scams?
- What Different Government Scams Are There?
- What Are IRS Scams?
- What Are Immigration Scams?
- How to Spot Government Scams
- What You Should Do About Government Scams
- Using Phone Lookup
What are Government Scams?
Government scams are a type of phone scam where someone pretends to be calling from the government in order to defraud the person on the other end of the phone. These kinds of scams range in complexity but usually involve the IRS or Immigration Services. During one of these phone scams, the person calling might tell you:
- You owe tax and need to pay it.
- You are owed a tax refund.
- There is a problem with your tax account.
- There is a problem with your immigration application.
Usually, the scammer will tell you about a problem and claim they can fix it for a small fee. For example, there has been an issue with your immigration application but they can solve it for you if you pay $100 over the phone. Of course, the scammer needs your bank details in order to facilitate the payment. Or they will ask you to make a payment via PayPal or wire transfer. Regardless, you will likely lose money in the process.
Plus, once scammers have your personal details, you might be the victim of identity fraud. This can cause problems on your credit file and make it difficult for you to apply for finance in the future.
What Different Government Scams are There?
There are different types of government phone scams, but all of them share similar characteristics. The person calling will pretend to be from a government department, such as one of the following:
- Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Education
- Department of Health and Human Services
Thousands of people lose money from these kinds of scams every single year. It's become an epidemic and one that shows no signs of slowing down. Unlike other types of scams, many people are reluctant to ignore calls from the government because they think they will get in trouble. Scammers know this and use this to their advantage.
What Are IRS Scams?
IRS scams are the most common type of government scams. The IRS rarely contacts taxpayers by telephone when there's a problem (they will write instead), but that doesn't stop people from falling victim to these scams.
Here are some of the most common:
Social Security Number Scams
Social Security number scams occur when the person calling claims to be able to cancel or suspend someone's Social Security number (SSN) over the phone. The caller will often demand some kind of fee to stop this from happening (even though they are lying and are unable to suspend a SSN).
In this particular scenario, a scammer will put pressure on the recipient to pay the fee over the phone straight away. After the call is finished, the scammer might drain the recipient's bank account or carry out identity fraud in their name.
Tax Relief Scams
Many people fall for tax relief scams. These kinds of frauds occur when the person calling tells taxpayers they can reduce their tax liabilities by donating to good causes or to victims of natural disasters around the world. Remember, the IRS would never contact taxpayers over the phone about an issue like this.
This scam has become so common that the IRS has launched International Charity Fraud Awareness Week, which educates the public about phone scammers who are trying to steal personal details from taxpayers.
Tax relief scams can also take place via email. In this scenario, people receive emails supposedly from the IRS asking them to donate to good causes in exchange for tax relief. This is a type of phishing scam, where scammers trick people into handing over sensitive data, such as bank account details and credit card numbers. Again, the IRS would never contact taxpayers about this issue via email. (The IRS rarely contacts any taxpayer via email.)
Taxpayer Advocate Service Scams
A new type of scam involves callers pretending to be from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office that deals with IRS-related problems. Callers will claim that they can help taxpayers claim money owed or tax relief because of various reasons. This isn't the case at all. These calls are scams. Again, scammers will attempt to convince the recipient to hand over important information that can be used for identity fraud.
Tax Owed Scams
Sometimes, scammers contact people to tell them that they owe tax for a previous financial year and they need to pay up. These callers can sometimes make threats over the phone and warn people that they will receive fines or even go to jail if they fail to pay any owed tax. Some people believe this and transfer funds into the scammer's account.
As many of these scammers operate from outside of the United States, it can be difficult to track them, which means victims might never see their money again.
Tax Refund Scams
In this type of scam, taxpayers are told that they are due a tax refund and, in order to claim it, they will need to hand over their financial details. Some people fall for this scam because they already have a tax refund application pending and mistakenly believe that the person on the other end of the phone is calling from the IRS.
Taxpayers will often hand over their bank details in order to claim their refund. However, something awful happens. Scammers will try and steal money from the person's bank account or use their sensitive information for identity fraud where they open new bank accounts and other financial products in their name. This can have a significant impact on their credit file and make it difficult to apply for credit and loans in the future.
Scams Targeted at Tax Professionals
It's not just taxpayers who are targeted by scammers, either. Tax professionals might be contacted by people claiming to be from the IRS or other government departments and become victims of fraud. One recent scam involves tax professionals being contacted by fraudsters who are looking for personal and financial information from their clients.
"Increasingly, tax professionals are being targeted by identity thieves," says the IRS. "These criminals, many of them sophisticated, organized syndicates, are redoubling their efforts to gather personal data to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns."
What Are Immigration Scams?
Immigration scams are similar to tax scams but someone will pretend to be from USCIS or another government department that deals with immigration issues, such as the Department of State (DOS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In these types of scams, someone claims that they are calling from the government in order to solve a problem, such as petitioning for a green card or visa. The person receiving the call might be tricked into handing over their financial details over the phone in order to expedite their application.
"Unfortunately, many factors make immigrants a frequent target for scammers," says Boundless, a company that deals with immigration services. "Many immigrants are anxious about the immigration process, unsure if they qualify for green cards or other visas, and unfamiliar with how the U.S. government conducts business. And many immigrants don’t speak English as their first language, or aren’t deeply familiar with cultural norms in the United States."
Usually, the caller will say they are trying to help the immigrant fil in complicated government paperwork in exchange for a fee. However, once the money is exchanged, the scammer never completes the paperwork or fulfills any immigration benefits they promised. They might also open up bank accounts and other financial products in the immigrant's name, which will make it hard for them to apply for finance if their immigration status is approved.
"One especially deceptive advertising tactic used by many such individuals is to call themselves 'notario,' 'notario público,' or 'notary public,'" says Boundless. "In Latin America and Europe, a 'notario' or notary public often refers to someone who has a high level of education and the equivalent of a license to practice law."
Both immigration and tax scams are becoming more common and they are happening right now. Scammers don't discriminate by age or location and will try everything they can to trick people into handing over the details over the phone.
If you have received a call from someone claiming to be from the government, do you want to know if it's legit? Use RoboKiller's Phone Lookup service and see for yourself in just a few seconds.
How to Spot Government Scams
There are a number of tell-tale signs for spotting government phone scams. Although a caller might appear genuine, look for these red flags:
The Caller Says You'll Be Arrested or Deported
It is unlikely that you will be arrested for not paying taxes over the phone. If someone threatens you with jail time, it's likely a scammer is calling you. It is also unlikely that you will be deported if you don't pay a fee over the phone. The goal of the scammer is to scare you into paying. It is important to remember that genuine government officials will not threaten you with arrest or deportation.
The Caller is Trying to Confirm Your Information
You might receive a call from someone who says the government is trying to confirm your information. This is likely a scam. The government will never call you to confirm your details, such as your address or bank information. If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately.
The Caller Contacts You Late at Night
There is no real reason why the IRS or any other government department would need to call you late at night. If you receive an unwanted call outside of regular hours, it's probably a scammer trying to steal your details or phish for information. Again, hand up immediately and block the number.
The Caller Contacts You About a Tax Refund
If a caller claims you are due a tax refund that you are unaware of, it is very likely a scam. If the government owed you money, they would write to you in the mail rather than contact you on the phone.
The Caller Wants You to Pay Via Wire Transfer or Gift Cards
The government doesn't accept payment via wire transfer or services like PayPal or gift cards of any kind, so if someone is asking for payment via these methods, it's likely to be a scammer.
What You Should Do About Government Scams
Unfortunately, government phone scams are becoming a bigger problem every day. Some people receive calls from so-called "government officials" several times a week, and it's driving them insane.
Block the Number
Again, blocking the number seems like a simple solution. But this is why it doesn't work: Scammers use different phone numbers for this very reason. Although you might block one number, they can still reach you on a different number.
Add Your Number to the Do Not Call Registry
The Do Not Call Registry tells marketers from genuine companies not to contact you with advertising and promotional calls. Although you might still want to add your number to the registry, it won't stop spam calls. This is because fraudsters don't care about databases like this one and will do all they can to reach you and steal your personal information.
Contact Your Phone Carrier
Many phone carriers now use STIR/SHAKEN technology, which marks some unwanted numbers as "Scam Likely." Although this can help you identify which calls are likely to be scams, it won't prevent these calls from reaching you in the first place. You still might receive dozens of calls a week from fraudsters, and STIR/SHAKEN will do little to stop them.
You could report scam calls to your carrier, too. However, this won't stop government scam callers from trying to get through to you.
Tell Scammers to Leave You Alone
Many people have tried this, and it just won't work. Sure, you could tell scammers to stop contacting you, but they won't listen.
Plus, you are just confirming that your number is in operation when you answer these calls. Many scammers scrape the internet for telephone numbers they can call, and when someone picks up, their software will mark that number as real. This just increases the likelihood of more scam calls in the future.
There are several steps you should take when dealing with government scam calls, but it all depends on what you do first.
If you ignore or miss an unwanted call, do the following:
- Head over to the Phone Lookup database.
- Type in the number of the caller.
- Find out whether the call was genuine or a scammer.
- If someone from the government was trying to contact you, reach them on the number published on their website.
- If a scammer was trying to contact you, block the number.
If you answer a call from an unknown number but don't know whether it's genuine, do the following:
- End the call.
- Head over to the Phone Lookup database.
- Type in the number of the caller.
- Find out whether the call was genuine or a scammer.
- If someone from the government contacted you, reach them on the number published on their website.
- If a scammer contacted you, block the number. If you handed over any personal or financial information, contact your bank immediately. You might also need to change your passwords and other information on some accounts. You can also contact law enforcement.
There is a way you can avoid both of these scenarios, however.
The RoboKiller app prevents government scam calls from even reaching you in the first instance. This way, you won't have to decide whether to ignore or answer a call. Using the latest technology, RoboKiller can identify scam calls and block them from reaching your phone. It's a simple process, but it's an effective one. You can still view all the calls you receive, but you won't have nuisance callers from interrupting your day-to-day life.
RoboKiller doesn't just deal with government scams, either. You can use it to stop student loan scams and debt collection frauds, as well as all other types of scams and robocalls. Just download RoboKiller on your Android or iPhone.
Using Phone Lookup
Phone Lookup is a fast, reliable way to check whether a call is genuine or not. It takes just seconds, and you can prevent scammers from stealing your personal information.
The Phone Lookup database lets you see the following valuable information:
- The person who has phoned you from an unknown number.
- Whether that person has contacted other people.
- How many people have received calls from that number.
You can also check out:
- The most common robocalls in the previous hour.
- The most common robocalls in the previous 24 hours.
Want to find out whether someone is really from the government? Type in the phone number