Many people have been asking, “What do I do when the IRS calls  me?” The answer: The IRS, and other government organizations like the DMV or Social Security Office, will never call you unless you called them first.

However, tax season is prime time for scam phone calls and emails. Email phishing scams were up 60% in 2018, and half of all calls in 2019 are expected to be spam robocalls, according to the call protection company First Orion. Many of these scam phone calls happen during tax season or on tax day. More spam robocalls were made on Tax Day 2018 (April 17) than any other day in the year.

With that in mind, the IRS posted a PSA to remind everyone that an IRS employee will never:

  • Demand immediate payment. They will always send a bill in the mail first.
  • Demand payment without allowing you to appeal or question the amount owed.
  • Demand payment in a specific way, such as with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for your debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to call the police and/or have you arrested if you do not pay your taxes.
  • Threaten legal action, such as a lawsuit.

If you get a call from a number you do not recognize, do not pick up. Let the call roll to voicemail. Most spam callers will not leave a message.

Additionally, if you do pick up a call from a suspicious number or respond to a voicemail from a suspicious number, do not answer any of their questions. Whatever they ask, respond with, “Where are you calling from, and why do you need this information?” Do not even respond to basic questions, such as “Are you the homeowner?” or “Can you hear me?” However, it’s best that you hang up right away instead of talking to them at all.

Scammers will often claim to be employees of a government agency, debit/credit company, student loan office, bank, or retailer. If someone calls claiming to be members of such an organization, hang up immediately and contact your bank, credit card company, or loan office directly to see if they were trying to reach you.

If you do talk to a suspicious caller, keep a close eye on your banking statements, credit card statements, and phone/cable statements. Dispute any unfamiliar charges that you did not knowingly authorize, and demand proof if they claim you were recorded approving the charge.

You can set up a few precautions to avoid these scams:

  1. Register your phone number for free on the National Do Not Call Registry.
  2. Check with your phone company to see what services they offer to block spam or unwanted calls.
  3. Google the phone number calling. Individuals will often post about scammers phone numbers on websites such as whocallsme.com or shouldianswer.com.
  4. Download apps that flag or block potentially fraudulent numbers or spam numbers. Some phone apps include: Hiya, Nomorobo, Truecaller, and Should I Answer?.

Whatever you do, stay safe this tax season and be wary of unknown callers!