Will the IRS Call to Collect a Debt?

Will the IRS call to collect a debt?

The answer is NO; I found this out first hand. Several months ago I received a call from an unknown number. I usually don’t pick up these calls, but for some reason, on this day I did. Here is an abbreviated version of that call.

“Hello, is this Kim Golner?”
Me: “Yes”
“Miss Goney, you owe the IRS $3,680. You must pay this amount today to avoid being arrested.”  (Each time he tried to say my name it got worse)

Me: “Arrested?”
“Yes, we have notified the police and they are waiting for a call from us, if you don’t pay today I will call them and they will be there within 30 minutes…You have to go to Walmart and get a prepaid card and ………”
Me: “Please send the police, my husband works with them (not true), I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing some of his coworkers. What is your name and contact information? I’ll have my husband call you back.”
Click, the phone disconnects.  

The actual call lasted for several minutes with the caller trying to assert increasing pressure in order to get me to comply. I had read about these scams and knew immediately what was going on. But, make no mistake these callers can be very convincing.  

Help I don’t have the Money!

Unfortunately, there are lots of unsuspecting people out there who do not know these scams exist. A friend received a similar call and it caused her a great deal of anxiety. My friend has struggled with financial issues for years, and being contacted by a scammer scared her beyond words. After hanging up with the caller she started contacting  everyone she knew, including me. The stress she was feeling was palpable; I could hear the fear in her voice. She was afraid of being arrested and didn’t have the money the caller told her she owed. It took me a while to convince her she was safe and reassure her that the IRS does not make calls to collect money. I felt so bad for her; as a senior citizen with health issues, she did not need this added stress in her life.  

Why are Seniors targeted so often?

According to the FBI Scams and Safety page, Seniors may make prime targets because:

  • Senior Citizens are most likely to have a nest egg, own their home and/or have excellent credit.
  • People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite, trusting and not confront authority.
  • Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to or are ashamed at having been scammed.
  • An elderly victim may not make a good witness due to memory issues associated with aging and scammers know this.

Scam Alert

The problem has gotten so bad that the Federal Trade Commission has created a scam alert page that can help consumers avoid fraud, including telephone fraud.  It also includes information on the latest scams. Here are a few of the things they recommend:

  1. Do online searches/ research.
  2. Don’t believe your caller ID.
  3. Don’t pay upfront for a promise.
  4. Talk to someone.
  5. Hang up on robocalls.
  6. Be skeptical about free trial offers.
  7. Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

“Pass it On”

The IRS has reported that scammers may know a lot about you when they call. These calls may come through with altered caller ID making it look like the IRS is calling. In some cases, the caller might say that you have a refund due in order to trick you into sharing private information. These scammers may even leave an “urgent” callback request. Remember, the IRS does not make calls regarding taxes owed or refunds due.

The IRS has also reported that these scammers might use a video relay service (VRS) to try and scam deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Interpreters do not screen calls for validity so be vigilant.

The FTC has a campaign called “Pass it On” which encourages people to talk about scams. The idea is that people are less likely to succumb to scams if they are informed and  share with others. The FTC also encourages you to report the scam. On their consumer page, they have an audio sample of one of these scams that involves the scammer targeting someone on Social Security.  

What to do if you have been the victim of one of these scams.

 First, do not be embarrassed. These frauds are often carried out by people who have done their homework and are sophisticated con artists. Share your experience with others and most importantly report the scam. By reporting the scam you are helping others to not fall prey and potentially helping law enforcement catch the perpetrators

Where to report scams

  1. The  Federal Trade Commission (FTC): (877) FTC-HELP: (877) 382-4357
  2. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
  3. Internal Revenue Service (IRS): (877) 829-5500
  4. American Association of Retired Person (AARP): There is information available here on fraud schemes targeting senior citizens.

When I started researching this topic, I was frankly stunned by the number and variety of scams out there.  Most seemed to be targeting senior citizens. In the coming weeks we will revisit this topic♠

How about you? Please let us know if you have been on the receiving end of any of these scams. Are there topics related to scams you would like to see us address?


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