If the IRS is calling you, chances are it’s not really the IRS, says Iowa City Crime Prevention Officer Ashten Hayes. It’s probably a scammer, trying to intimidate you into sending them money.

Police departments throughout the Midwest have been receiving calls about phone scams in which a caller pretends to be the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), telling victims that they owe thousands of dollars and that they’ll be arrested if they don’t pay right away. Victims are instructed to put the IRS “payment” on a prepaid credit card, and are warned that if they don’t, the police will be on their way to make an arrest. In a similar scam, the caller pretends to be a local police officer, conducting a follow-up call for the fake IRS.

In some instances, caller ID may even indicate the call is coming from the IRS, demonstrating how sophisticated these scams can be. When a potential victim calls them back, the scammers may identify themselves as the IRS, but when questioned, will hang up.

Email scams are also taking place. The IRS instructs residents to not reply to emails claiming to be from the IRS with requests for personal information, or information on taxes associated with a large investment, inheritance, or lottery. Nor should any attachments or links associated with these emails be opened, as they may infect your computer.

Don’t let yourself be a victim, Officer Hayes stresses. The IRS’s first correspondence regarding any tax issues will take place by mail, not phone, she says. The IRS would correspond by phone only if they had already contacted a person by mail and had been given permission to call. By then, the taxpayer would have already been notified of IRS payments that were owed.

Residents who receive one of these scam calls are urged to hang up and report the incident to phishing@irs.gov, with a subject line of “IRS Phone Scam.” Or, ask for and write down the caller’s name, badge number, call-back number and caller ID, if available, and call 1-800-366-4484 to find out if the caller is really an IRS employee. If so, call back. In the case of email scams, forward the email as-is to phishing@irs.gov.

For more information, visit the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing or contact Officer Hayes at 319-356-5273.

Date of publication

Monday, May 09, 2016