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When the IRS Calls…

How about a show of hands regarding the Internal Revue Service (IRS)…

  • Have you ever filed a tax return with the IRS?
  • Have you ever been audited by the IRS?
  • Do you know what you should do if the IRS calls?

Well, the Internal Revenue Service and all those in retirement who expect their monthly check from the IRS count on everyone else in the workforce to pay their taxes and file returns.  Does the IRS delve into the returns?  The percentage of adults in America who have been audited for their 2020 taxes was only 0.2%, and that is down from .39% just the year before.  And the rate has not been above even 1 percent for well over a decade.

So, what should you do if you’re called by the IRS?  Most folks don’t know that the IRS never calls anyone about their tax filings.  You may receive a letter in the mail and there may be an in-person audit of your returns and supporting documents, but you will never be called by an IRS agent.  So, do you know what you should do if you get a call from someone identifying themselves as an IRS agent: HANG UP!

T-Mobile, as just one carrier who tracks scam calls, tells us that scammers have made an average of 425 million fraudulent calls every week in 2021.  A lot of these are sort of official sounding robocalls which allows scammers to cover a lot of phones very efficiently.  This is where we all talk with our older loved ones who are disproportionately more often the targets for these scams and help them to understand that they should not only hang up on these scammers, but they should say nothing at all.

The way these calls typically work is that a robocall system reaches out to an unsuspecting phone owner and springs the IRS audit news.  The automated call may ask for a social security number as the call is handed off to a human on the other end.  The call may soon devolve into a request for a bank account number or other ID.  They become more obvious as they are known to go so far as to ask for money to be wired or gift cards to be mailed to some account or address claiming to be official.

But they are not always using the “taxes due” angle.  They may also be offering to expedite a tax refund for a certain amount of money sent to cover the costs of paperwork and handling.  If they succeed in getting a gift card or cash transfer, they are simply moving on to the next target.  But if the scammers get any important personal information, the ruse is only just starting.  Personal information can be used to create new credit cards, loan applications, big purchases, passports and more.

The other tell for these scams is the sense of urgency from the caller to the unsuspecting recipient, because they don’t want to give the victim a chance to think.  But time is on your or your older loved one’s side.  The IRS wants to help the unsuspecting citizens avoid these scams, and they offer information and advice on their tax scam/identity page of their site.  Also, the Federal Trade Commission wants to hear about any calls – and the originating phone numbers; you can find the steps to take here .

Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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