I can say without hesitation that no government agency will do any of the following:
(1) ask you to pay a debt to a government agency with a prepaid debit card or a gift card.
(2) demand payment of a debt to a government agency without having told you first, in writing, how much they think you owe them.
(3) threaten to have the local police arrest you for not paying what they say you owe them.
If someone calls you on the telephone, says they are from the government (and especially the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration), and says anything like any of the above, hang up, because they are trying to rob you.
There are variations on this scam. The caller might say they are calling on behalf of Amazon, or Microsoft, or Google. I have received such calls, more than once. I can say with confidence that if you receive a telephone call in which the caller claims to be from any government agency, or a company with which you have done business, and makes any such request, demand, or threat, you should hang up on them. They are thieves.
If you receive a phone call from someone who claims to be calling on behalf of the IRS, the IRS recommends that you do the following (but hang up on the caller first):
· Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
· Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
The IRS, the Social Security Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are trying to spread the warning about these scams. The IRS web site (irs.gov) has a page titled: “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.” Here’s the location of that page (url):
That’s where I got the above information.
And here’s the location of a page (url) on the FTC’s web site about the scammers who pretend to be calling from Social Security:
This discussion doesn’t really apply to collection agencies, by the way. They are subject to their own set of rules, which do get enforced. With collection agencies, the important thing to remember is if you tell them to stop calling you, they are required to stop.
On a related subject, if your identity has been stolen and used to file a fraudulent federal income tax return, the IRS should be sending to you each year, by mail, an official notice with an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). The IRS uses the IP PIN to verify your identity when your tax return is filed either electronically or on paper.
Beginning in 2021, you can ask the IRS to issue an IP PIN to you even if you have not been a victim of identity theft. That service will become available in mid-January of 2021. The process of applying for an IP PIN can be done online, but you will have to go through what the IRS calls a “rigorous identity verification process,” and you have to reapply every year.
I can’t be certain that I’m right about this, but I think that the most likely objectives of the thieves making these phone calls are to either (1) get you to give them money, in the form of a debit or credit card number, or (2) get you to give them information, i.e. your social security number, that they can use to file a fake income tax return and get a fraudulent tax refund. If you don’t give them any information, then those things can’t happen.
One more time, for emphasis: if a telephone caller (or someone sending you a text message or an email, for that matter) says they are contacting you on behalf of the IRS, Social Security, or some other government agency, and says pay us, or give us information, right now over the phone (or via text or email), hang up immediately. In fact, if you assume that every unsolicited phone call demanding payment or information from you (with the possible exception of a call from a collection agency) is a scam, you will never be wrong.
Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions. He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,
Contact Attorney Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org or 520/ 322-5000
This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.