How terrifying it must be to receive a phone call telling you that you either pay up now or you go to jail—do not pass go, do not collect $200, it’s the slammer for you! The IRS jail scam is nothing new, but it certainly catches people off guard when they receive a phone call from an IRS impostor. Later in this article, you’ll learn about a new twist to this old scam that will surely increase after the holidays.
Chances are you don’t owe the IRS a dime, and if you do, you won’t receive a phone call from them unless you’ve received prior communication. They usually communicate by mail. If you receive a phone call telling you that you owe the IRS a balance—whether you do or not—you never have to pay up today or go to jail. That scenario doesn’t even resemble due process. The phone calls often use an automated format—robocalls. If it’s a live “operator” instead of a robocall, expect the pressure to increase as the call progresses, but live calls are oh, so 20th century.
A New Twist to an Old Scam
Recently, the scammers have informed unsuspecting “marks” that they can pay their outstanding balance using iTunes gift cards. Now, the scammers have upped the ante; they will accept any gift card. Retail establishments are beginning to accept gift cards from other vendors, so the scammer doesn’t care which gift card you turn over. He’ll find a way to turn it into cash. So, no liquid assets, no problem. Just turn over your Christmas gifts and the IRS will get off your back. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way. The IRS isn’t going to accept your Dillard’s gift card.
What Should You Do?
If you receive one of these calls, hang up. It’s best not to answer any toll-free calls or calls from phone numbers that don’t display the identity of person calling. This tactic is not foolproof because anyone can “spoof” a phone number. The caller can switch the phone number that shows up, but it’s unlikely that the number belongs to anyone you know. Even if your caller ID shows IRS, the chance that it’s the IRS calling is slim.
Go to the Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistance site and select “Scams and Rip-offs” from the left-hand menu. Then select “Impostor Scam.” Follow the prompts on subsequent pages to report the scam.
Now you know what to look for when you receive any of the variations of the IRS scam. You can help other people by spreading this information since it’s well documented. You might save someone from unwarranted misery.