Fraudsters pretend to be IRS agents, demanding payment
It’s hard to believe that taxpayers fall for this scam, but many do. We’re talking about the gift card scam, where a highly trained, experienced scammer posing as an IRS agent leaves a voicemail threatening arrest for tax evasion - or deportation- if the call recipient doesn’t deliver payment via gift card numbers read to them over the phone.
No government agency will request tax payment using gift cards. Ever. These are always thieves looking to steal your money. The same goes for any company demanding payment in this fashion. It’s a scam.
This scam heats up around tax time, but can happen any time of year.
Here is what to watch out for:
A scammer will call, text or email you, and says he or she is working for the IRS. They will say you owe taxes, and will be arrested if you don’t pay now – with a gift card. These gift cards will usually be demanded from a specific store. The scammer will have you call them back and read off your gift card numbers and PINs. The scammer then simply uses the numbers to buy items online, and moves onto their next victim.
It's important to note here that the IRS will never call, text or email you. Any communication with the IRS would be through traditional mail, with a phone number for you to call.
The IRS also would not threaten to send you to prison for unpaid taxes, revoke your driver's license, business license, or immigration status.
And most importantly, the IRS would never request a gift card for unpaid taxes.
If a scammer reaches out
Remember that these scammers are highly, highly convincing. Like actors, they are trained to sound trustworthy and believable.
If you do get a call from such a fraudster - asking for tax payment via gift card - hang up. Do not engage in conversation. If you get an email with the same request, delete it.
Report the incident
To report a phone scam to the IRS, individuals can call 800-366-4484 or use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage.
For emails that claim to be from the IRS, report it to the IRS at email@example.com. Include “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.
Remember, gift cards are for giving gifts, not for tax payments to the IRS, utility companies, or other organizations. Anyone requiring them for payment is a scammer.