By Steve Tepper, CFP®, MBA
Wow, did I get a call last week. The robocall was a deep, booming voice telling me that the IRS had issued a warrant for my arrest for unpaid taxes and that the police would be arriving within 45 minutes.
That is, unless I immediately called the phone number provided in the message. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. But if I had, an “IRS case worker” would have answered and would have requested my Social Security number to “match it to the case file” and, of course, a credit card number.
I just have to say, I knew from the first instant it was a scam, I’ve heard of the scam, it is my job to know it is a scam, but in that moment, listening to that message, it was a little bit, well, terrifying. It really was.
It’s easy to understand how so many people can be duped by this and similar scams, particularly seniors, whom these grifters most often target.
So I offer this reminder to you, even though you have probably heard it before. When you get a threatening call regarding a matter that you have no knowledge about (like an IRS lien, any other debt, or a legal action), remain calm. If someone were really coming to arrest you in 45 minutes, they probably wouldn’t “call ahead.” You’re not the Olive Garden—you don’t take reservations.
And the IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment. That’s not how they conduct business. They also won’t email you with a similar threatening message to contact them right away over a debt.
If you don’t owe taxes and have no reason to think you do, ignore any such communications. If you think you might owe money (or know you do), don’t respond directly to the call or email, but go to this site: https://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account
There you can verify if you owe money and, if you do, review payment options.