Real Stories - Tax / IRS
Jackie, a 19-year-old university student who had returned home for the summer, said a caller reached out to her and seemed credible, even though he initially asked to speak with "Shelby." Jackie told the caller he had the wrong name and gave her own name. He then reversed course, saying, "I'm actually calling for you, Jackie."
The caller told Jackie she owed back taxes and was subject to arrest. He provided her with addresses for drugstores near her home and told her to purchase gift cards cards in varying amounts and provide him with the card numbers. At no time was she to hang up or tell anyone what she was doing. Jackie stayed on the line and went to the nearest drugstore. At one point, the cashier asked Jackie if everything was all right because she sensed something was wrong. Convinced of the scammer's power and authority over her, Jackie told the cashier she was just chatting with a friend.
Jackie's beliefs that she might have done something wrong, that the IRS had the authority to arrest her and that it is embarrassing to reveal any ignorance of how the world works—combined with her apparent lack of experience working with the IRS - may have led her to overlook red flags.
Signs this was a scam
- The threats of arrest and request for unusual payment methods were the signs that this was a scam.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), government agencies and any legitimate business will never threaten you with arrest, or demand immediate payment of a tax debt or fine with unusual payment methods like gift cards, Bitcoin or pre-paid credit cards.
Avoid this type of scam
- Hang up the phone or delete the email if you ever get a call or email claiming you will be arrested due to a tax debt. Do not call the number provided in the phone message or email you receive.
- Hang up immediately even if you're concerned that the phone call may be legitimate — call the IRS at 800-366-4484 to check.