"More and more of my clients have been getting random phone calls from scammers claiming to work for the IRS," Chad Elkins, CPA and author of "Elkins' Tax Guide 2019 Edition," told Business Insider. The IRS will almost never make initial contact with you by phone.
"They like to target the elderly and recent immigrants, in particular, who may not be aware that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor contact taxpayers about taxes owed without first corresponding by mail or providing the taxpayer an opportunity to appeal a balance due," Elkins said.
These scammers have gotten sophisticated, according to the IRS. Now, they can spoof the local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) phone number to appear on your caller ID. If you doubt them, the scammers will tell you to look up the number.
Why do people fall for this? "Aggressive, high-pressure tactics enable schemes like this to work. Victims are threatened with arrest and other severe consequences if they don't make payment immediately. People react in a moment of fear and anxiety and do it," CPA Richard Lindsey, author of "Fairness or Folly: A Real World Guide to the Temporary Tax Reform of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," told Business Insider.
The IRS does not do anything immediate— they have a process of warning letters, registered mail, and other paper information before they demand money. To collect the money owed, the IRS can file a tax lien on your home, levy your bank account or wages, or offset any refund you are entitled. Eventually, they can seize your car, boat, or real estate if you don't pay up. They have the force of the law behind them to eventually collect any money that you might legitimately owe them.