Doc's note: Last month, U.S. and Indian authorities arrested more than 100 call-center scammers. Call-center scams are big business... with Americans paying out tens of millions of dollars to scammers.
Some of our readers have experienced these scam calls. One reader wrote in to tell us:
I keep receiving rather threatening calls from a law firm, indicating that a suit has been filed against me. These are all pre-recorded calls – never a live person – and the caller indicates that he knows my name and social security number, yet never calls me by name and never indicates what the suit is about. Then there is a prompt for me to press #1 to speak with one of their associates. Is this for real or a scam? I have never responded to these calls. – S.W.
Keep ignoring and deleting these calls, S.W. As I've mentioned before, don't get duped by scammers. If you get a call from someone who claims to be from the IRS and threatens you with jail time, hang up immediately.
Today, I'm sharing a story from my friend and colleague Steve Sjuggerud. He told his readers his experience dealing with the IRS scammers. And he shares important advice you can't ignore.
"Steve, you are being sued by the IRS."
That was the start of a message on our house phone yesterday, from someone claiming to be with the IRS.
My wife called me when she heard it. "What's that all about?" she asked.
It didn't make sense to me...
There's no reason the IRS should be interested in us.
We make a good income. But we are actually conservative as taxpayers.
So I looked into it...
It didn't take me long to realize it was a scam.
In short, if you get a phone call out of the blue, supposedly from the IRS, hang up. It's most likely a scam.
IRS commissioner John Koskinen says:
Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don't be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money. We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us.
After talking with my wife on the phone, I told my friend Trent about it. (He was the first guy I saw after the call.)
"My mom has gotten the same call a couple times," he told me. "Even my wife got that call. And other people at her work. It's everywhere."
The IRS says it will never "call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill."
This scam is incredibly widespread. The IRS said it has "become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid more than $26.5 million as a result of the scam."
The scam can sound authentic. The Caller ID looks like it could be the IRS. The scammers have fake "badge numbers" and might know some details about you.
But there are many red flags – particularly like demanding payment now (the IRS wouldn't do that, it says), and demanding payment in some bizarre method (this allows the scammers to prevent you from getting your money back).
Remember, the IRS isn't going to call first. It's going to send you a letter.
And it isn't going to demand payment over the phone. It will give you an opportunity to appeal.
In short, I'm not being sued by the IRS. But since so many people are getting this phony phone call, I wanted you to be aware of it...
If your turn comes up, you now know what to do: Hang up.
P.S. For more details about what to look out for and how to handle it, click here.