(CNN) -- The IRS warned of this “pervasive” scam on Thursday, saying it has been identified in nearly every state.
Innocent taxpayers—often immigrants—are answering their phones only to be informed they owe money to the IRS and need to pay it immediately by either loading money on a prepaid card or sending it via a wire transfer. If they argue or refuse to pay, scammers will threaten to arrest or deport them, or suspend their business or driver’s license.
“In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting,” the IRS said in a statement.
These calls may be convincing, because the scammers use caller ID spoofing to make sure the IRS’s toll-free phone number shows up on the caller ID, they make up bogus badge numbers and may know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. Sometimes victims will even hear background noise that sounds like a call center.
And if the victim hangs up, they may get another call seconds later from the same scammer—or another one—saying they are with the police or an agent at the DMV.
To avoid getting duped, don’t believe anyone claiming to be the IRS who calls to ask for your credit card number or requests a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS said it will never ask for payments to be made by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, and it typically makes its first contact with taxpayers by mail.
You should also be immediately suspicious of any caller claiming to be from the IRS and demanding money, especially if you aren’t aware that you owe anything. Nasty language and threats should also be a red flag.
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement.
To report any calls like this, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.