Q&A on the News

Q: I was called by a supposed IRS representative saying I owed taxes from 2011 and that I would be immediately arrested if I did not pay $3,300. I didn’t do it. Is this a scam because they said I would have to pay this before I hung up or I would be immediately arrested and my assets frozen? Has this happened to anyone else?

—Joann Bakay, Stone Mountain

A: The IRS continually warns people about various scams and recently has seen a rise in phone scams. The "scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things," the IRS posted on IRS.gov, and states that the first contact from the agency will be "through the mail."

“If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said on the website. “Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business.”

There were about 290,000 reported scam phone calls from October 2013 through late last month that resulted in about 3,000 victims paying $14 million to individuals who made “unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.”

The IRS states it will not:

Call to demand immediate payment.

Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount.

Require you to use a specific payment method.

Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Threaten arrest.

You can report phone scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).