Delaware Department of Justice warns of IRS phone scams

DOVER — With tax season ongoing, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Delaware Department of Justice is receiving a high volume of consumer complaints relating to IRS phone scams, according to the Attorney General’s office.

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Matthew Denn

In a typical IRS phone scam, a caller pretends to work for the Internal Revenue Service (or sometimes the U.S. Treasury Department), and tells the intended victim that the IRS soon will file suit against the victim, or threatens the intended victim with arrest or some other kind of punishment. The caller claims the only way to avoid the lawsuit or arrest is to immediately pay a sum of money, usually via a pre-paid debit card or a money order.

“These scammers claim that the person answering the call has unpaid taxes that must be paid immediately to avoid a lawsuit or arrest,” says Attorney General Matt Denn. “They use aggressive language and threaten dire consequences — such as jail time, loss of employment, or deportation — if the victim doesn’t immediately pay up.”

The Internal Revenue Service says these scammers often spoof the telephone number to disguise where they are calling from, and they sometimes manipulate the caller ID information so it seems like the call is coming from the IRS. They may even give out a fake IRS badge number, and may know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. They will try to use that information to gain a victim’s trust.

As a reminder, the IRS never will reach out to a taxpayer with an initial contact by telephone, nor will the IRS demand credit or debit card payment over the telephone, or demand that you pay a tax bill in a specific manner.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration announced it had received reports of more than 1 million IRS phone scam calls since October 2013, and is aware of more than 5,500 victims who collectively have paid approximately $29 million to these scammers.

Attorney General Denn urges consumers to ignore these calls and not return voicemail messages. Consumers instead should do the following:

•If you are worried that the call might be real, because you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe federal taxes, hang up and call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. IRS workers there will be able to help you with any payment questions.

•Report the scam to federal authorities: fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website,, or call TIGTA at (800) 366-4484, and also consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at (add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint).

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