Threatened on a collection call from the IRS? Make sure it's real

Now that tax season is over, you may be in a position where you owe the tax man a little money. If you do, it might not surprise you to get a call or email from the IRS.

It should. The IRS doesn't do that.

Unfortunately, many people don't know that, but one tax attorney from Connecticut knew exactly what was going on when he was contacted by a scammer this year. As a lawyer, he knew that the IRS always makes first contact with taxpayers by U.S. Mail, never by phone or email. The IRS doesn't robocall or ask for payment in the form of prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. Real IRS agents never, ever threaten people with jail for ordinary tax debt.

Your personal details are what these scammers are looking for, and they're coming up with ever-more-convincing ways to swindle you. Attempts to gain that information are called "Phishing scams," and here are some examples:

  • Callers who claim they simply need to confirm your identity by getting your birth date, maiden name or Social Security number. Those are just the personally identifying details they need to steal your identity.
  • Emails that appear to be from seeking personally identifying information or asking for payment via pre-paid debit cards, which can't be traced. IRS agents will never ask for this information.
  • Dummy websites set up look like or like real tax preparation services. Their domain names are often only slightly different from the real one, such as being based on a common misspelling like "preperation" vs. "preparation."

If you get an IRS collection call, hang up.

"Fake IRS agents have been targeting more than 360,000 unwitting taxpayers with abusive phone calls demanding payment and threatening jail time," the founder and chairman of told MainStreet.

If you get such a call, just hang up. Don't let them keep you talking -- that's how they gain your trust. If you're unsure, ask for the agent's badge number and contact information, then hang up and call the IRS's real phone number, which you can find here on the IRS website. Or better yet, call a tax lawyer. 

If you do end up in collections by the IRS for real, you'll need to minimize the damage. Our firm would be happy to help you get relief.

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