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3 Simple Ways to Sidestep Phone Scams Fraudsters count on you not doing these things.

By Steph Wagner

This story appears in the December 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Dan Saelinger

When someone claiming to be with the IRS left a voicemail saying I was being sued, I freaked. I called back the number to see what was going on, and the second the self-­appointed IRS agent answered, he demanded my Social Security number. That's when I knew it was a scam, and I hung up. The IRS never asks for your Social Security number over the phone. (I also know the IRS never answers the phone that promptly!) If the agency has an issue with your tax returns, it will send a formal letter first.

Related: 6 Warning Signs You May Be Dealing With an SEO Scam Artist

I next called my CPA to make sure he hadn't received any dubious calls regarding my tax status. He told me that I was his fifth client harassed by a phony IRS agent that week. In fact, more than one million people in the U.S. are approached with similar scams every year, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Scammers sound official by using bogus case numbers, and they demand that your unpaid taxes be paid via prepaid debit cards, money orders, wire transfers, and, believe it or not, iTunes gift cards. When you refuse to pay, they threaten to have you arrested, take away your passport and even deport you. The fear tactics work: TIGTA claims that more than $29 million has been fraudulently collected from more than 5,500 victims in the past three years.

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