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Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious IRS Calls

Updated: Feb 16

As an owner-operator, it’s important to protect your business from people trying to scam you for your money. The phrase “you can’t cheat an honest man” only goes so far – especially when you’re not the one being dishonest.

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS. These callers may try to scam you by demanding money, or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound very convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from the IRS. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious IRS Calls

With the right information, you can easily spot when an IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things scammers often do, that the IRS would never do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.

  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

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

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue. You can also call a reputable tax company, such as ATBS to help point you in the right direction.

  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484 or at

  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Also remember: the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issues. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to and type “scam” in the search box.

Having the right knowledge will help you to protect your business and personal finances from these scammers, and keep your money safe during tax season.

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