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How to avoid IRS scam calls

Let’s face it, money matters. Whether you’re earning it or spending it, financial security is crucial. Unfortunately, the never-ending IRS phone scam has more and more people unnecessarily losing money to fraudsters. I see new articles every day about this IRS Scam and how it’s tricking people all over the country. Since its inception, over $36.5 million dollars has been collected by IRS scammers – and that’s only from 6,400 victims. That’s over $5,700 lost per victim!

With proper app protection, these calls should never get through to users. However, scammers can be conniving little devils and knowing what a scam looks like can help save you, should one ever get through the line of defense. Let’s break it down.

Top area codes associated with the IRS scam
  1. 202 (Washington, D.C.)
  2. 509 (Spokane and eastern WA)
  3. 206 (Seattle, WA)
  4. 360 (Western WA)
  5. 347 (New York City, NY)
  6. 253 (Southern WA)
  7. 315 (Upstate NY)
  8. 832 (Houston, TX)
  9. 914 (Westchester County, NY)
  10. 646 (New York City, NY)
How to know if the number calling is a scammer

To determine whether a phone number is associated with a scammer, check online scammer databases. Start by searching for the phone number on reputable online databases that track scammer numbers. Some websites collect user reports and complaints about suspicious phone numbers, allowing you to see if others have encountered scams linked to the same number. Government agencies will often publish warnings and information about current scams, including phone numbers used by scammers. 

Trust your gut 

Don’t forget to trust your instincts if something about the call feels off! Scammers try to manipulate people by catching them off guard. If the call seems suspicious or demands immediate action, be cautious and take the time to research further before providing any personal information. 

Five ways to identify an IRS scammer

1. They call you. Hang up. The end.

Legitimate communication from the IRS is never initiated through unsolicited phone calls. IRS officials do not cold-call taxpayers to discuss tax matters or payment issues. If you receive an unexpected call claiming to be from the IRS, treat it as a red flag. Simply hang up the call without providing any information or engaging in conversion. 

2. The call comes through as “IRS,” “FBI,"“US Treasury," etc.

Scammers often use caller ID spoofing to make their calls appear as if they are coming from government agencies like the IRS, FBI, US Treasury, or other official entities. Remember that government agencies don’t make such calls for tax collection purposes.

3. They know basic details but ask for sensitive information like birth date or social security number.

IRS scammers may start the conversation by having basic information about you, such as your name and address. However, they will try to elicit more sensitive details like your birth date, social security number, or financial information. Refrain from providing such details to anyone claiming to be from the IRS over a phone call. 

4. They demand immediate payment via prepaid debit, wired money transfer, etc.

One of the most common tactics scammers use is to pressure victims into making immediate payments to settle alleged tax debts. They may insist on using specific payment methods. The IRS, however, offers multiple payment options, and they would not demand immediate payment through these methods over the phone.

5. They use scare tactics like threatening to call the police.

Scammers resort to intimidation tactics and fear to manipulate victims. They may threaten legal consequences, such as arrest, deportation, or revoking your driver's license if you don’t comply with their demands. Legitimate IRS communications are never coercive or threatening. The IRS would not threaten you with police involvement over the phone for unpaid taxes.

How to out-smart scam callers

IRS scammers also leave urgent voicemails, knowing that some individuals might be anxious about their taxes or fear potential consequences from the IRS. These voicemails often employ high-pressure tactics, urging you to call back immediately to resolve a supposed tax issue. Surprisingly, over 17 percent of users succumb to the sense of urgency, and return the call, failing right into the scammers' traps. 

During peak tax season, the average callback to these fraudulent voicemails lasts about 26 seconds. 

While that may not seem like much, think of the last time you were cornered into a conversation by that awkward coworker and then you’ll know how long 26 seconds can really be.

Scammers are adept at using this brief window to exploit your emotions, making hurried decisions that could lead to significant financial losses.

In the face of such pervasive scams, it is crucial to stay safe and alert your loved ones. Spread awareness among your friends, family, and colleagues about the tactics employed by IRS scammers. Encourage them to verify the legitimacy of suspicious calls or voicemails with the official IRS helpline before taking action. 

Protect yourself against scam calls

While IRS scam calls can prove to be highly effective, Hiya offers a variety of solutions that help carriers identify these calls and businesses establish trust with customers who are bombarded by scam calls.

Carriers can protect their users with Hiya Protect, which identifies, labels, and blocks spam and scam calls.

Scam calls impact businesses, too. With so many scam calls ringing through, 87% of consumers think unidentified calls are fraud. This makes getting your customer to pick up the phone more difficult. Displaying a branded caller ID means that customers know your call is from a legitimate business and is not a scam. They'll pick up the phone, and you'll be able to communicate important information. Learn more about the value of branded ID in our  Branded Call Buyer's Guide.

Author Hiya Team