Phony IRS calls spike in Minnesota; BBB says to remain alert

Over the last couple of weeks, Better Business Bureau® of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has noted a recent spike in phone calls to the public falsely claiming an affiliation with the IRS. Calls of this nature, where consumers are told a debt is owed and must be paid immediately, are not legitimate. Callers play on fear to pressure consumers and business owners into making on the spot payments which are not due. The IRS communicates primarily through the U.S. Mail, and taxpayers always have the right to dispute claimed debts.

“The timing of these calls is nefarious,” said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Most people have last year’s taxes in the rear-view mirror, so to get a call now saying taxes are still owed, it gets people thinking that maybe they—or their tax preparer—made a mistake. Which is why it’s so important to stay calm, not let yourself be pressured and verify everything that you’re told.”

On July 24, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota received a phone call from a distraught local senior living on a fixed income. The senior was concerned they might be in financial jeopardy due to an IRS debt they had been told was outstanding. Fortunately, BBB was able to inform the senior that the call was fraudulent and they should disregard the message they received.

BBB is advising the public that the IRS will never make calls demanding immediate payment and initiates contact with taxpayers through the mail. Scammers are also able to utilize technology that alters the information which appears on caller ID, so it may appear as though a call is originating from the IRS, when in fact the call is fraudulent.

Phony IRS calls have become common nationwide and can target anyone. Fraudsters perpetrating this scheme can call from anywhere and attempt to manipulate people’s fears to trick or coerce them into making hard to trace payments, such as wire transfers, gift cards or prepaid debit cards. These con artists often claim an affiliation with the IRS and use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers.

In recent years, scammers have turned to robocalls, leaving “urgent” messages for people claiming a tax debt is due. These messages will sometimes even threaten arrest if the recipient doesn’t call back to make a payment. However, robocalls such as these are illegal and the messages left are not legitimate.

People who speak to these scammers on the phone say they are abusive and threaten arrest or even deportation if alleged tax debts are not paid immediately. Some callers have even claimed to be from the U.S. Marshals, threatening arrest if alleged tax debts were not paid in full.

The IRS website states they will never:

• Call to demand immediate payment, nor will
they call about taxes owed
without first having mailed
you a bill.
• Threaten to bring in
local police or other law
enforcement groups to
have you arrested for not
paying.
• Demand payment
without giving you the
opportunity to question or
appeal the debt in question. • Require you to use a
specific payment method
for your taxes, such as a
prepaid debit card.
• Ask for credit or debit
card numbers over the
phone.
The IRS also states they
don’t initiate contact with
taxpayers by email, text
messages or social media
channels to request personal or financial information.
This includes requests for

PIN numbers, passwords or
similar access information
for credit cards, banks or
other financial accounts.
If you receive one of
these fraudulent IRS phone
calls, BBB recommends
you:
• Hang up. Don’t provide
any information over the
phone. Stay calm.
• Protect your personal
information. Never give
out any personal or financial information over the
phone. This includes your
Social Security number.
Remember, taxpayers have
rights.
• Contact the FTC. File a
formal complaint with the

Federal Trade Commission
at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
People are encouraged to
add “IRS Telephone Scam”
to the comments in their
complaint.
• Contact the FCC. Let the
Federal Communications
Commission know about
ID spoofing by calling
1-888-CALL-FCC or file a
complaint at www.fcc.gov/
complaints.

BBB offers additional tips on this tax scheme and others: www.bbb.org/ en/us/article/tips/13995- bbb-tip-tax-scams.

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