THE BLOG
04/23/2014 12:14 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2014

Don't Fall Prey to This

Do not fall prey to a common scam that is in full swing, now that tax season has come and gone.

There I am at lunch with one of my most favorite professors, being a nerd, as my classmate Mary calls me. And my phone ring; at first, it's my doctor confirming that I'm dying (not really, but sorta) of allergies.

The phone beeps; it's the IRS and I owe $1,200 in taxes; they are coming to arrest me if I don't pay now. I thought it was fishy, considering I take care of this kind of stuff. I have an accountant; he does the work. Plus, I am a starving student.

But, I decided to listen. I hung up at the point when the person on the other end, an "officer with a badge number," wanted me to get in my car with the speakerphone on to meet a case manager.

Knowing a fair number of federal agents, I phone one at Homeland Security.

He tells me that this is very common.

"At least you didn't get duped. A lot of people do," he said.

I call the Federal Trade Commission, and am informed that these scam artists are actually in other countries, and use this imminent sense of urgency to rope people in.

So I call the joker back. I let him run through his script, and then I tell him I've phoned the FBI and FTC. I ask the caller why this group of people are doing this scam. It sounds like this person is in a large call center, and I ask how they get away with this kind of ploy.

After a moment of laughter, "You caught me. Your country has done horrible things abroad," the caller says. While I cannot disagree, I do not think scam terrorism is something that is just.

"Where do you get the names and addresses?" I inquired.

"Every company has policies. We don't talk to journalists," he replied.

This time of year is often taxing for many consumers. Scams aimed at stealing taxpayers' money make the season more stressful.

According to the FTC.com:

The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) warns that crooks posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials are contacting people claiming they owe taxes. The caller demands a prepaid debit card, wire transfer or a credit card number for payment. If the person doesn't comply, the caller threatens to arrest or deport the target, or take away their driver's license or business.

The website warns of these flags, and offers these solutions:

Thousands of victims have lost money to these tax scam artists. But there are ways to recognize them and foil their attempts to steal your money.

These scammers often call you. But when the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they do it by postal mail, not by phone.

They use common names and fake IRS badge numbers, know the last four digits of your Social Security number, demand payment via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS doesn't ask for either of these payment methods, nor will they ask for credit card numbers.

These scammers rig caller ID information to appear as if the IRS really is calling, send fake emails that look like legitimate IRS correspondence, make a second call claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, rigging the caller ID information.

To protect yourself from impostors who call, claiming to be from the IRS:

  • Don't provide any account or other personal information. Hang up the phone.
  • Never wire money to a person or company you don't know. Once you wire money, you can't get it back.
  • If you owe -- or think you owe -- federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. You also can visit the IRS website at irs.gov.
  • If you've already paid your taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • Forward emails from the IRS to:phishing@irs.gov. Don't open any attachments or click on any links in those emails.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Include "IRS Telephone Scam" in your complaint.