IRS scam: Beware scam calls and don't get fooled


DETROIT – The Help Me Hank consumer unit has taken many complaints about the fake IRS scam.

Here’s What Happens:

The phone rings. The fake "agents" on the other end will often identify themselves as being with the IRS or the U.S. Treasury Department. They will claim you owe money to the government. Often, they will threaten you with arrest, taking away your driver's license, or other dire consequences. The caller, often with a foreign accent, will demand payment. Sometimes, they will offer you a deal, you can pay less if you pay right away. They always demand payment immediately, and they will ask you to use methods of payment that cannot be traced. (debit cards, wire transfers, etc.)

What you need to know


The IRS never calls you from out-of-the-blue to tell you about a tax problem. You would receive notice in writing. The IRS never threatens you with dire consequences in that first phone call. And, the IRS never demands immediate payment.

Help Me Hank urges you to share this information with friends and family, especially any seniors since they seem to be targeted the most often.

Big mistake people make

Many people make the mistake of responding to these calls in the first place. In general, you should never answer phone calls, emails, or texts if you don't recognize the Caller ID. Screen all your calls! Only answer the phone if you know who's on the other end of the line.

If you speak to anyone who happens to be a scammer, they will now know you're a "live" target who will pick up the phone. They may keep targeting you. They may call you again and try a different scam until they find one that works. Or, they might even sell your phone number to other scammers.

An expert from Consumer Reports told Help Me Hank how your name and number can get passed around, if the criminals believe you're a possible target.

"These lists, they're called sucker lists. These are people who have already responded... to a mailing... and they're sold among scammers. The names might be worth $6 each," said Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports.

You don't want to be on a sucker list, and you stand a better chance of being left alone, by all scammers, if you just stop answering the phone!

Lost money hard to find

In the end, if you lose money to a scammer it's very difficult to track them down, and the chance of you reclaiming your money is very, very slim. Help Me Hank cannot track those mysterious phone numbers. They are often fake and the scammers often call from other states or other countries. Even police admit, it's very difficult to catch these criminals.

You are the first, best line of defense against fake IRS scammers and all the other con artists who might reach out via phone, text or email. Be aware, be careful, and protect your money.

4 steps to fight back on any scam

There are four steps that will protect you from the IRS Scam and any other scheme that con artists come may try. Just memorize these steps and use them any time you feel something fishy is going on:

IGNORE: Get called ID and stop answering any phone numbers you don't recognize. If it's someone you know, they will leave a message. Even answering the phone is a signal to scammers that you are willing to be a live target. Ignore strange calls!

RESIST: Be prepared to resist any requests for money or personal information. Always tell the person you need some time to do some checking first. There's never a reason you should have to pay someone immediately or not given time to check out the story they are telling.

VERIFY: If you are worried about their claims, find a legitimate source to verify what they say is true. Call a trustworthy number for the IRS, your bank, your utility, or whatever alleged "organization" is trying to scare you.

NOTIFY: Finally, when you spot a scammer, share that information with friends and family. When appropriate, also notify police, government agencies, or the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker. By sharing that information, you warn others and might help investigators make a case that can stop some of the scammers.

Click here for the BBB Scam Tracker.

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