Criminals often impersonate IRS workers so they can gain personal information from elderly adults. Sometimes IRS fraud happens via email or through in-person visits, but it typically occurs over the phone. If you get a call from someone who claims they work for the IRS, be careful what you say. Learn the basics about scam IRS calls so you don’t fall victim to fraud.

Check Your Mailbox

The IRS often sends important tax information, including transcripts and audit notifications, through the mail. The agency also mails out tax bills, including notices about late payments and payment extensions. A caller who insists you owe the IRS money is likely lying if you have not received written notice of your debt. If you have recently moved or share a mailbox with others, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and ask if you have any outstanding tax obligations.

Review Your Caller ID

The IRS often calls from an identifiable phone number, not an unknown or private number. However, you can’t automatically trust phone numbers with titles such as “Official IRS Agency” either. That’s because IRS impersonators often spoof your caller ID with phony contact information. Caller ID spoofing tricks your phone’s caller ID feature into thinking a legitimate caller is on the other end.

When in doubt, ask for a return number and call the alleged IRS agent back at your convenience. Beware of a pushy IRS agent who insists the matter is too urgent for a return call, as official IRS agents typically do not demand immediate payment.

Don’t Share Personal Information

When an official IRS agent calls, they already have the account information they need. An agent will not ask for your credit card number or debit card number. They are also unlikely to request your full Social Security number or ask questions about your checking and savings accounts when they contact you.

Do not give out personal information if you suspect a caller is a scam artist. Hang up and call the IRS back at their official number, or ask if the caller can send you a bill through the mail.

Beware of Bullying

Criminals often use scare tactics when they speak with golden-agers over the phone. A scam IRS call may involve threats of legal action, deportation, business license revocation or even jail time. Official IRS agents do not speak to taxpayers like this, even if they suspect you have committed tax fraud. The agency sends letters or files notices through court rather than calling and threatening to take action against you.

Report Suspicious Calls

Many callers believe the threats of scam artists and end up sharing personal information or sending unnecessary payments. That’s why thousands of victims have paid scammers a combined total of more than $23 million since October 2013.

You can help protect potential victims by contacting the appropriate agencies immediately if a potential scammer calls you. Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484, or fill out the online reporting form for the Federal Trade Commission. Suspicious emails can be sent to the IRS at [email protected] for review.

Don’t let scammers intimidate you into revealing your personal information. Protect yourself with the practical tips above if a suspicious caller contacts you.