The IRS is warning taxpayers about a tax scam that begins with a phone calls from someone claiming to be an IRS agent and ending with threats of arrest.
The victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid immediately through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim does not cooperate, they are threatened with arrest or deportation.
Allen Abrams was stunned to get a phone call from someone he said sounded like a legitimate IRS agent. The caller demanded he pay $5,000 or else.
"I would be handcuffed and thrown in jail," Abrams said. "It was absolutely the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced that I can remember."
Another scam involves a phone call telling the taxpayer he has overpaid. He is then given instructions to "press one" to have the amount credited to the proper account.
While the scams may seem far-fetched, the imposters can be convincing.
They use fake names and fake IRS badge numbers. They spoof the IRS toll-free phone number to appear on the caller ID. They can often recite the last four digits of the person's Social Security number.
The biggest red flag is the phone call. The IRS typically makes first contact with someone by mail, not by phone.
Other scams arrive by text or email demanding confidential information that is supposedly missing from the return. These are classic phishing scams attempting to get vital data like the Social Security number.
"That way, the scam artist can steal your identity and then they can claim your refund using a fraudulent tax return," said Tobie Stanger with Consumer Reports.
The IRS does not email or text to ask for personal information.
If you receive such an email, taxpayers can forward it to email@example.com.
Suspicious phone calls can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.