It used to be that only two things in life were certain: death and taxes. But just as certain as death and taxes are scammers who play on people’s fear of taxes and are devising new ways to steal their hard-earned money.
This month our Scam of the Month takes a look at IRS scams. These scams, where fraudsters impersonate representatives from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, come in many varieties. They may be trying to obtain your social security number or other personal information to commit identity fraud, or they may be after your bank account information in an effort to take money from your account.
Below is a sampling of IRS scams that Hiya users have been reporting. Mobile phone users who use Hiya Protect through their phone carrier, device manufacturer, or the Hiya app, are able to report these scams directly to Hiya from their phones.
“They claimed to be a part of the IRS and that they required my SSN to pay off back taxes. I am on disability and have no back tax liability of any kind within the state or federal government. These people need to be stopped before someone is inadvertently financially destroyed by believing their lies.”
“The IRS called about me being arrested for fraudulent tax activity. They even went as far as to say that they were outside my door. The IRS doesn’t even regularly call taxpayers. I knew it was a scam.”
“I recently received what seemed like a robocall informing me that my SSN had been compromised and that I should return the call to speak to an IRS agent. They claimed there was a lawsuit in the works concerning my outstanding debt to the IRS. I do not owe any back taxes. This is a scary scam.”
The IRS won’t call you
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about IRS imposters and has even created a short video to educate consumers on how IRS scams work.
“Scam artists are pretending to be IRS officials to get your money,” says the FTC. “They'll call, email, or text you claiming you owe back taxes or there's a problem with your tax return. They even rig caller ID to make their call look official. They play on your fears. They threaten to take your driver's license or sue, arrest, or deport you. They want you to pay, fast.”
The FTC also points out that the IRS's first contact with a taxpayer will always be a letter in the mail, not a phone call, text message or email. And the IRS won’t insist that people pay with a prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or cashier's check.
How big is the IRS scam?
Hiya’s data shows that potential IRS phone scams are averaging close to 2 million per day on weekdays (see chart below). You might think that IRS scams would surge before and after the traditional April 15 tax deadline, but Hiya’s data shows a steady stream of these calls regardless of the month. The chart below shows daily calls over the past three months, through April 25, 2023.
Potential IRS scam calls have averaged around 2 million per day on weekdays over the past three months.
Pick-up rates and durations
The pick-up rate for IRS scam calls is 21%. So, on a day where 2 million IRS scam calls are placed, 420,000 of those calls are answered, potentially leading to a successful scam.
For calls that are answered, the average duration of the call is around 10 minutes. That’s significant because the longer a scammer has a potential victim on the phone, the more likely it is that the recipient will get scammed.
How to fight back against IRS scam calls
While scam techniques can prove to be highly effective, Hiya offers a variety of solutions to fight back.
Carriers can add Hiya Protect, a complete call protection solution that enables mobile network carriers to protect their subscribers by blocking and labeling spam and fraud calls, and helping them discern wanted calls from unwanted calls. Using Adaptive AI technology, Hiya analyzes past and present call patterns and responds to new threats as they emerge. Hiya Protect goes beyond simply identifying spam-likely phone numbers; it uses a proprietary multi-layer approach that analyzes the phone number, call characteristics, the call recipient, and even the calling enterprise’s history across all numbers used.
Enterprises can help their customers feel safe answering the phone by adding Hiya Connect, which enables businesses to display their company name, logo and reason for the call on the recipient’s mobile phone. With Hiya Connect, enterprises can improve customer engagement and loyalty while protecting their customers from deceitful interactions and their brand reputation from inaccurate spam labeling.
Individuals can check with their phone carrier to see if it offers any spam/scam blocking capabilities. If not, ask your carrier to consider adding Hiya Protect or download the Hiya App.