The Internal Revenue Service and its partners in the tax industry and state tax authorities warned Tuesday about a new twist on the phone scam that criminals have been using for years to steal money from taxpayers, with the fraudsters now using phone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers while demanding payment on nonexistent tax bills.

The IRS and its Security Summit partners are cautioning taxpayers to remain alert to scams, even after tax season has ended. In the latest scam, criminals claim to be calling from a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. The scammers have programmed their computers to display the TAC phone number, which appears on the taxpayer’s Caller ID when the call is made.

If a taxpayer questions the scammers’ demand for tax payment, the fraudsters tell the taxpayer to go to the IRS’s website to look up the local TAC office phone number to verify it's the same as the one on Caller ID. The criminals then hang up, wait a short time and then call back again, “spoofing” the caller ID so it looks like the local IRS office is calling. After the taxpayer has “verified” the phone number, the scammers again demand payment, typically via debit card.

Scammers also have been pretending to be calling from local sheriff’s offices, state motor vehicle departments, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.

The IRS noted that its employees at local TAC offices don’t call taxpayers demanding payment for old tax bills. The agent usually initiates contact by mail. There are some special, limited circumstances when the IRS will telephone or visit a residence or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to obtain a delinquent tax return or employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations. Even then, taxpayers will typically receive several letters (known as “notices”) from the IRS in the mail before the visit or call.

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