Scam alert: IRS warns of phone flimflam on owing taxes

The IRS is warning the public about a phone scam that targets people across the nation, including recent immigrants.

Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.

What to watch out for

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 appear as if the IRS is calling.

— Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.

— Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV, and caller ID again supports their claim.

How the IRS operates

The truth is 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 agency also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.

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 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration 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.

Watch for scams with IRS name

Be alert for phone and email scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by email, texting or any social media.

You should forward scam emails to Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails.

Read more about tax scams on the genuine IRS website,