Does the IRS call from blocked numbers?
November 24, 2010 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Does the IRS call from blocked numbers? (Scam attempt details inside)

We got a call this evening (after hours on the eve of a holiday) on our home phone from a blocked number ("Private name, Private Number") from a "Mrs. Russell" claiming to be calling from the IRS and asking for me by name. As my spouse handed me the phone, I accidentally disconnected the call. A minute later she called my cell phone number (which showed the caller as "Blocked"), again asking for me by name and introducing herself as Mrs. Russell. She gave me an agent number (which I neglected to write down, flustered as I was) and then immediately asked me to give her my address and social security number "to verify my information", which of course set off all kinds of warning bells.

When I said I was not comfortable giving my address or social security number over the phone she said "I understand, if you prefer you can call us back tonight or on Friday at 1-800-829-3903, but if you choose to call us back you may have to wait on hold for 30-45 minutes. If you want to verify your information with me then you won't have to wait."

I told her I would call the number back and she said "That's fine, Have a Happy Thanksgiving, have a good night, sir."

A quick Google search for the number turns up dozens (hundreds?) of other reports pretty much exactly like this; generally agreeing that it's a scam. However, there are also a few reports saying "It's a legit IRS number. I called back and they had mixed up my contact info with someone else's account, but I got it straightened out."

The phone number does appear on the IRS' web site, and when I called it I got a standard "Thank you for calling the Internal Revenue Service. Our office is now closed, please call back during normal business hours" voice recording.

I know of no reason the IRS should be contacting me, and find it very doubtful that any legitimate call from them would

1. Come from a blocked number, and
2. Ask me for my SSN.

This is nothing more than a scam using just enough factual/official sounding information to seem plausible, right? The legit IRS phone number was just to make me think "Oh, well if she's giving me a call-back number then it must be legit. I'll just give her this information now so I don't have to wait on hold when I call back!"

I will probably call the IRS' main 800 number on Friday for my own peace of mind and to report the scam attempt, but my core question here is, would the IRS ever call from a blocked number after business hours?

(Asked anonymously out of heightened paranoia.)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (49 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
100% guaranteed scam, not a chance in hell that's legit.
posted by facetious at 6:12 PM on November 24, 2010 [11 favorites]

They're spoofing the number. The IRS does sometimes call after business hours, but they don't initiate by asking you to verify all of your relevant information.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:12 PM on November 24, 2010

I know of no business that would require its representatives to refer to themselves by "Mrs." or "Mr." anything. That's the kind of thing I've only ever seen in 419 scams.
posted by katillathehun at 6:15 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

They would not ask you to verify personal info over the phone. I mean, when you do your taxes online, they way they know it's you is by asking for your previous year AGI.
posted by SMPA at 6:16 PM on November 24, 2010

But the blocked number bit probably isn't a giveaway, they'd be going through an enormous switchboard and quite possibly your service can't say who it's from. I know that any calls from my work to my mobile or home number come up private.
posted by wilful at 6:20 PM on November 24, 2010

@SMPA - Point of Order. When I call the IRS on legitimate business, they ALWAYS refer to themselves as "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" Background- For payroll and filing reasons I call the IRS about 6 times a year.

That being said, they have never called me and the posters situation smells just like a scam.
posted by sandra_s at 6:24 PM on November 24, 2010

My policy when people call me claiming to be x is to have them verify themselves to me. So, IRS - they know everything, so pick stuff that would be hard to get out of the trash. Bank - same thing. But - this is highly suspicious. Important IRS things are handled through the mail, not some after-hours phone call.

Also, you can call them back tonight, yet the office was closed? Just another facet of the scam, if you google the number, hey, it's legit. This person must be on the up-and-up.

posted by defcom1 at 6:25 PM on November 24, 2010

Every single interaction I've ever had with the IRS has started with a letter. FYI.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:41 PM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

I can totally see the IRS asking you to verify your soc sec number, if you call them. They have a rotating and varied list of questions they can ask to confirm you are who you say you are.

However, even the IRS website says plainly, do not give out your SS # if you do not know who is on the other line. I could find nothing concrete saying the IRS does not ask for SS#'s when calling, but:

1. Given that their general policy is to advise you not to give it out blindly
2. The lady tried a manipulative soft sell ""I understand, if you prefer you can call us back tonight or on Friday at 1-800-829-3903, but if you choose to call us back you may have to wait on hold for 30-45 minutes. If you want to verify your information with me then you won't have to wait."

I'd say with near certainty that it is a scam.

In similar situations I'd tell them if you have something of concern for me, send it in the mail and that you are not calling to hold 30 - 40 minutes.

In fact I'd wager large sums that by mail is the preferred method of contact, why the hell would they proactively tie an employee up with calling, when they can just have the computer spit out a form letter and mail it off.
posted by edgeways at 6:42 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blahlala hit the nail on the head. You'll always get letters to discuss IRS issues. No client of mine (I'm a Florida CPA) has ever had initial contact via a phone call. And if it's really urgent, they'll show up in person :-)
posted by MediaMer at 6:54 PM on November 24, 2010

I bet they give out the real IRS number as a ruse, hoping you won't get through and then they, the scammers, will call you back and attempt to get your info again.
posted by lee at 6:57 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

IRS agents do indeed call themselves "Mr. Smith" and "Ms. Jones." I don't remember ever getting a first name from an IRS agent.

But yeah, this is a scam. The IRS does call you to follow up on ongoing issues, but as others have said, new issues start with your receiving a letter. Now, maybe you might have missed a letter--mail goes astray--but they don't call you and ask for your personal data; they call and ask if you got their letter, and then if you haven't, they send it again--they don't try to do a whole intake over the phone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:17 PM on November 24, 2010

And there's a link here where you can report this experience to the IRS.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:21 PM on November 24, 2010


I work at the IRS, and as someone who makes outbound calls like this, I can tell you -- this sounds completely LEGIT to me. I know it seems completely counterintuitive, but we're required to verify the identity of the person who answers the phone even if we're calling the phone number we have on file. We have crazy strict privacy and information disclosure rules, and we're required to take these really strange steps, like asking the person on the line for their own social security number.

Here is the relevant portion of our handbook, which lists the procedure for outbound calls (look for section, numbers 18 and 19)

And this lists the questions we're supposed to ask to verify your identity
(look for section, number 5)

Also, the phone numbers in my office are definitely blocked. If I ever get a blocked call on my phone I tend to just assume it's my boss calling.

In addition, people like myself are answering incoming calls for most of the day, which means any outgoing calls I make are going to be in the late afternoon/early nighttime. In addition to that, we have a large night shift contingent whose hours go until 1 AM, and they make outgoing calls too.

** Another thought: we have major call centers in all time zones, so if you're on the East Coast and someone in our California center calls you, it might not be "after hours" for them.

Why would you receive a phone call as opposed to a letter?

Oftentimes, if I need a minor piece of information to resolve whatever issue I'm working on, and I see that you've provided your phone number, I will try to call you so I can get the issue settled that day, instead of sending you a letter and waiting for a response (some people reply promptly, but many -- most I'd say -- take around a month to respond).

I absolutely understand why you thought this was a scam. Hell, if I didn't work there myself, I would have thought this was a Grade-A phishing scheme. But strange though it may seem, this has all the hallmarks of a valid IRS call to me.

Hope this helps!

Your friendly neighborhood tax man,
- texano
posted by texano at 7:52 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Texano... isn't that exactly what a scammer would say?!?!
posted by parkerjackson at 7:59 PM on November 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

Welcome to Metafilter, Texano. I see you joined today. If you ever call my house, don't expect me to give out my SSN.

100% scam.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:00 PM on November 24, 2010 [15 favorites]

Texano, sounds like the person calling the OP failed to uphold #19:

When you initiate an outgoing phone call, the taxpayer may be reluctant to give you his/her Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). To ease any concerns that the taxpayer may have, provide the taxpayer with the last four digits of his/her TIN (Social Security Number/Employer Identification Number). Then, request that the taxpayer verify the first five digits. After you verify the TIN, follow IRM Required Taxpayer Authentication .
posted by wilful at 8:12 PM on November 24, 2010

texano, the manual you're linking to is pretty clearly for people answering calls from taxpayers, not making calls to them.

OP, your instincts were dead on. You will not be contacted further by this scammer, because it's simply not worth her time to. She'll move on to the next number on her list.

Sure, call the IRS on Friday. They will have no idea why anyone might have called you.
posted by Etrigan at 8:15 PM on November 24, 2010

So what are we saying that Texano is on the scam? This seems a bit too conspiracy like.

I would call a legit IRS number and ask questions about this, or do nothing and wait for mail / something you can really authenticate.
posted by bindasj at 8:17 PM on November 24, 2010

My dealings with the IRS has ALWAYS BEEN IN WRITING. And that's the way you want it. You want it in black and white, whatever they want, for records and proof.

If they need you, they have your address. Total Scam.
posted by 6:1 at 8:20 PM on November 24, 2010

Scam. As an individual, if you ever get cold called, you can call the main individual taxpayer number at 800-829-1040 and have them check if an agent is trying to contact you. You won't be on hold all that long.

Tell me more about how the IRS blocks caller ID and makes outbound calls from call centers, texano.
posted by graftole at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2010


Agreed that the caller failed to uphold #19. With all the identity theft going on, your average phone answerer is not going to be down with handing out their personal info unless they know they are already expecting a phone call from the IRS.

Per When you initiate an outgoing phone call, etc.

To the OP:

Call the IRS on Friday at their toll-free line. All I'd ask is rather than saying, "I'd like to report a phishing attempt," that you instead ask, "Is there any reason someone might have tried to contact me?"

With the addendum being that if the answer is no, at that point yeah, definitely report that.
posted by texano at 8:23 PM on November 24, 2010

From Texano's link

4. The IRS does not ask for personal identifying or financial information in unsolicited electronic mail (e-mail), telephone calls, or postal mail.

posted by cnanderson at 8:27 PM on November 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Incoming calls are taken on these boxlike devices that keep lowly customer service agents like your truly practically chained to their desk for most of the day. We hit a button to take the next call. We hit a button to transfer you to a different area.

When our answering-the-phone time is done for the day, any outgoing calls we have to make are made on normal desk phones. As far as the relevant blocking technology we use, I couldn't give you any kind of technical info on that. Not because I'm trying to be secretive, but because I just don't know enough about how that sort of thing works.
posted by texano at 8:29 PM on November 24, 2010

I wouldn't even waste time in being proactive in contacting the IRS. Wait for another attempt from someone calling you again.

If contacted again, simply state that you prefer/will only communicate with the IRS by way of written communication via 'snail mail' and not by telephone or e-mail. After all one should want any swuch communication to be documented.
posted by ericb at 8:30 PM on November 24, 2010

I searched the IRS website for that phone number and found that it's associated with the Federal Payment Levy Program. An Automated Collections Service number. (It's about halfway down that page - you'll see discussions of why callers hang up on that and other IRS numbers.)

So, either you owe the feds some dough or I'm also just a scammer who's setting up spoofed webpages to try to get you to call me at my 800 number and give me your private information.
posted by gingerest at 8:31 PM on November 24, 2010

Just seconding the idea that a Blocked number doesn't indicate a problem. Every call from my totally legitimate workplace comes in as Blocked. I don't know why this is but it's obviously the setting on our switchboard.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:39 PM on November 24, 2010

@texano I didn't think the confirm screen given to ACS reps had home address on it. Privacy Act min disclosure and all. Given that ACS is routinely used as a pretext in these scams, that particular information demanded up front seems like a red flag.

I'm not intimately familiar with your ACD system currently in use. If misconfigured, it may not be giving out the IRS / 800-829-1040 (or -3903) CID. Failure modes are commonly "Out of Area" or "Unavailable". I would find it strange if it was giving out a consumer-level *69 block -- "Private Caller".
posted by graftole at 8:49 PM on November 24, 2010

As far as ACS goes, I'm not entirely sure what their setup is like. I work in AM, and I just assumed that our phone systems were the same, although it would make sense if they were different, given the different kind of work we do. For us, our policy is to just use our regular old desk phone when making an outgoing call, rather than going through the ASPECT terminal.
posted by texano at 9:07 PM on November 24, 2010

I also want to suggest that this is not necessarily a scam.

I had some bizarre phone interaction with a number Google thought was suspicious in which people tried persistently to get me to verify account information and wouldn't tell me why they were calling. When I called the number on the back of my card, it turns out there really was a fraud alert and the calls were legit.

I wouldn't give any caller any personal information like that, but do call in to see if something's up. Some organizations really just don't think these things through, and even if the organization has a good policy, there are always employees who make their own rules.

It could easily be a scam, also.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:22 PM on November 24, 2010

@texano Given the callback number "Mrs. Russell" gave, if it was legit, it was most likely an ACS campaign. Batch dialout through whatever the successors to ASPECT are.

A call to the regular 800-829-1040 number will either settle the matter as a phishing attempt, or tell you to call ACS. Or, there will be a false-negative screwup, and ACS will make another contact. If your address hasn't changed since the last return you filed (business or individual), they know where to mail threatening letters.

Anon OP, I sure hope you don't really owe money. I look forward to your followup =).

(Always get their ID. Always. You'll never speak to the same rep twice.)
posted by graftole at 9:38 PM on November 24, 2010

Scam, and if you do call them back, look up the number, don't use the one they gave you.
posted by fifilaru at 10:03 PM on November 24, 2010

I have talked with ACS. ACS has never said anything to me on the order of "If you don't talk with me tonight, you'll have to call back" and blah blah blah. That feels really unprofessional in a way that the kajillions of IRS agents I have spoken with are not unprofessional (actually, all the IRS agents seem to be professional when I speak with them--it's just that stuff happens somewhere like my last name being entered into the computer as gibberish, or my SSN being rendered as 999-99-9999).

I am certainly willing to accept that a clever scammer has figured out that giving the actual ACS number as a fake-callback number might scare people into giving them all kinds of information.

It is also possible that the OP has, for some reason, missed a bunch of mail from ACS (happened to me--the mail went to three addresses ago) and someone from ACS is calling to find out what happened.

But giving a bunch of financial access information to a stranger on the phone calling from a blocked number would be a foolish idea. Calling back is a better idea, even if it means having a long wait. If you do have to work something out with ACS, a couple of days won't make any difference in what is always a long process.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 PM on November 24, 2010

I like that the MeFi Detectives are jumping on texano for offering pointed, seemingly accurate, very detailed accounts of how he performs his job, as if somehow, magically, HE'S IN ON IT! Texano Russell! The pieces come together! The fix is in!

Christ. Sorry, texano—we're a protective, skeptical gang, and we tend to drill new people pretty hard when they make claims like yours.

I, for one, think a) texano is a dutiful IRS agent/CSR who maybe lurked on MeFi before being excited that he'd have something relevant and specific to contribute, thus handing over his $5 to answer the question, and b) Mrs. Russell, while very likely also a real IRS agent, had a few missteps with the way she handled things.

I don't think warning the person you're calling that they may have to wait when they call back is "unprofessional". I've waited 45 minutes on hold for the IRS before. It is Unpleasant. I'd appreciate the warning. There should have been some other challenge/response going on to confirm they were from the IRS, but at the end of the day, calling random people by name and asking for their SSN with the end goal of stealing it/their identity seems like an awfully convoluted way to go about things. You're setting a DIRECT red flag with most people to start monitoring their credit and ensure no one has opened a new line. Not exactly the best way to go about your scamming business.

If she had started off by asking for his routing number and bank account number, then I'd be concerned.
posted by disillusioned at 2:26 AM on November 25, 2010

Uh, a SSN will pretty much get you all the way to learning a bank account and routing number (routing numbers are easy to come by).

After hours on the eve of a holiday, with a sell to talk to them now or wait on hold for an hour later? This is a scam.
posted by maxwelton at 3:59 AM on November 25, 2010

(I have several toll free numbers for my personal use, and there is no such thing as a blocked call to a toll free, just FYI, if you want a way to avoid them. I always see the originating number. From big companies I normally see their main switchboard number, admittedly, as opposed to the individual extension. Because of this, I get zero telemarketing or scam calls.)
posted by maxwelton at 4:08 AM on November 25, 2010

Wow. Scammers now willing to pay $5 to embellish the scam? That's a pretty disturbing turn...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on November 25, 2010


You're right that Texano may well work for the IRS, and that's great. There's always room for one more. It's always nice to hear perspectives from what for most people in the US is an opaque and frightening government agency. I hope to see a lot more from Texano, especially as tax season approaches in the US.

Your analysis of how IRS pretexting scams work is flawed. It is good business for criminals looking to "add value" on an existing portfolio of profiles to use the collections side of the IRS (ACS in particular) as cover. Here's a few.

-Every single person residing in the US and earning money is a "client" of the IRS. There's no awkward shot-in-the-dark "I'm from capital one" calls with an up-front 2% chance of success.
-ACS is the Automated Collection Service. It's spread across all the revenue service centers, and you really never do talk to the same rep twice. They won't send you to the person who called you before.
-When you call the central ACS number, you really *can* be on hold for an hour. This helps if you want to go back through your list and call back targets a day or two later. Odds are they gave up being on hold.
-Real ACS interactions involve them trying to have you give up information like employer, address, bank account information, income sources, etc.
-Real ACS interactions can feel shady, may include a rep not giving out their ID number, may involve "problems with the system", and other not-by-the-book techniques to gain compliance. They are bill collectors.
-A criminal doesn't have to know how multiple banks handle customer calls to have a passable chance of success. They can focus on the IRS in this case, and make their spiel believable. As noted above by Texano, the IRS helpfully provides many of their policies, regulations and procedures online.

As part of the fraud economy, criminals will buy incomplete and low-value profiles, pretend to be bill collectors, banks, or...the IRS, and attempt to flesh them out to make their money. Buy a name, phone #, maybe an expired credit card for $0.10 in bulk, then sell back the name, phone, checking account, employer, current address, and more for $10-$150. It's a good business model that doesn't depend solely on an unlikely end result for the criminal, like getting someone to give up security question answers for specific accounts. Even just verifying a name and address can make a profile worth a few cents more and offset the cost of the call.
posted by graftole at 5:13 AM on November 25, 2010

I'm sadly in a job where the IRS calls me a lot. It always says IRS on the caller Id
posted by bananafish at 5:37 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hah, you pretty much got me to a T. Longtime lurker (~4 years), first-time poster. And I did, as you suspected, get a rush of excited energy when I saw that I could make a unique contribution. I realize I am making a strange, counterintuitive claim, and that I don't much have a way to prove my bona fides unless the OP provides an update that somehow vindicates my perspective. Which is why I'm really hoping that the OP will come back and let us know how things turned out. I don't want to have the badge of a telescammer!

You can definitely count on me contributing more now that I've paid in my $5 (texano: "DTMFA!") -- But seriously though, as you say, the IRS is an opaque and frightening entity to most people. And while some of that is probably good for our tax collection business, it'd be nice to help put a human face (or screen name, as it were), on our fair agency.

My bottom line: I don't think OP's actions were wrong or silly. Most of the time for my branch of work (IRS but not ACS), people are aware that they have an IRS issue, but even then, many just will not partake in answering my strange questions. And I get that. But the OP was looking for validation that this is definitely a scam. And while I'm not saying, "No way! This is 100% not a scam!" what I AM suggesting is that the calls that I make are quite similar to this in format, and that it matches what we're trained to do (minus Mrs. Russell's failure to perform the action in IRM, that is).
posted by texano at 5:58 AM on November 25, 2010


It's worth the $5 =).

Sad irony: The procedures you use to protect taxpayer information on outbound calls, which was pretty forward-thinking in the 70's and 80's, now make impersonating the IRS more attractive to criminals. Heck, the more interactions you've had with the IRS, the more believable these pretexts seem.

Given the details presented by the OP, I'd feel safe betting one beer on this instance being a pretext. Just one beer, though.
posted by graftole at 6:31 AM on November 25, 2010

Since I was first in the pile-on, I feel obliged to say: I don't know if texano is with the irs or not, and I certainly don't think he's in on THE scam.

I just wanted to point out that texano DID join metafilter on the 24th, and therefore has even less credibility than the rest of you, which isn't saying much. :-)

So if I have wronged you, texano, I'm sorry. I was just saying: "we can't take your word for it." And as someone else has pointed out, the procedure is actually not 'give your entire SSN out'

I should have added the first time, but Nthing - the IRS initiates most actions in writing. I had a mixup on a 1099 once, and that's how they did it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:54 AM on November 25, 2010

No worries amigo. Just to clarify: IRM

When you initiate an outgoing phone call, the taxpayer may be reluctant to give you his/her Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). To ease any concerns that the taxpayer may have, provide the taxpayer with the last four digits of his/her TIN (Social Security Number/Employer Identification Number). Then, request that the taxpayer verify the first five digits. After you verify the TIN, follow IRM Required Taxpayer Authentication .

So the correct procedure is:
IRS: Can you verify your social security number?
Taxpayer: (grumble grumble)
IRS: OK, how about this: here are the last four digits of your social security number; could you verify the first five?

Also noted that the second part of the procedure was not followed in the OP's call.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I'm about to hit the road to grandma's house, and with Texas being what it is I will be out at least 6 hours. See you on the flipside...
posted by texano at 7:17 AM on November 25, 2010

The ASPECT is the model of ACD system the agent is using. ASPECT is a specialized product that bolts on to your typical PBX. This, in itself, is not unusual.

I can't find the specific citation, but right now, number spoofing is not illegal, however, it's going to be very, very soon. With that, telcos will not allow an outbound call from an entity producing caller ID information which doesn't match what they bought from the telco.
posted by Thistledown at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2010

I searched the IRS website for that phone number and found that it's associated with the Federal Payment Levy Program. An Automated Collections Service number. (It's about halfway down that page - you'll see discussions of why callers hang up on that and other IRS numbers.)

So, either you owe the feds some dough or I'm also just a scammer who's setting up spoofed webpages to try to get you to call me at my 800 number and give me your private information.

gingerest, this doesn't make sense to me.

Are you saying that because the OP's mystery caller provided him/her with a legitimate phone number for the "Friday callback" which could be found by you on the internet on a legitimate web page, that therefore the caller is legitimate and not a scammer?

Because, to my read, it's exactly what a scammer would do in order to elicit the SSN rightnowtodaydon'tdelay.

Also, no offense intended to texano (welcome to MeFi!), but my family deals with the IRS a lot, both in professional and personal capacity, and the OP's description of the call did not pass the sniff test to me. In a decade of dealing with the IRS, I have never known them to make or receive an after-hours call. Outbound calls to taxpayers at 1 AM? Sorry, I don't buy that.

Also, I agree with those disagreeing with katillathehun -- "Mrs. Russell" doesn't sound wrong to me.

tl;dr Another vote for scammer.
posted by pineapple at 8:54 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

All I can say in response is to repeat that I make outbound calls as part of my IRS work. I'll put my years of firsthand experience against your family's experience. Calls can be after hours depending on the recipient's time zone. I don't think OP said anything about a 1 AM phone call, by the way. Our night shift here works from 4:30 PM to 1 AM so they could easily make an 8 PM phone call to maximize the possibility of reaching someone.

Further evidence that the IRS does initiate calls outside the 9 AM to 5 PM window:

From a resource geared toward tax professionals. And from three years ago too, lest you think I'm intent on spreading spoofed information.

Listen folks, I know I'm a mostly lonely voice out here. I'm essentially arguing that the world is flat when the prevailing thought is that the world is round. Some of you will never in a million years believe my claim. I guess I have to accept this.

To the OP, I repeat my original point: this may not be a scam. This may be real. Don't dismiss it out of hand.
posted by texano at 4:31 PM on November 25, 2010

>> I'll put my years of firsthand experience against your family's experience.

My family's experience actually is firsthand experience. Still, I'm going to just give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren't trying to dick-measure as to who is the more officially informed party here. I personally don't work for the IRS at present, so if Most Authoritative Answer could be awarded, I stipulate that you'd have it free and clear. The OP asked "would the IRS ever call from a blocked number after business hours?" and you've given pretty direct information answering that very specific question.

>> I don't think OP said anything about a 1 AM phone call, by the way.

No, you did: "In addition to that, we have a large night shift contingent whose hours go until 1 AM, and they make outgoing calls too."

That statement alluded that someone who is working until a night shift ended at 1am could be making outgoing calls. Even given time zone difference and the most extreme differential, that would mean that someone in California is receiving an IRS call at 10:00 pm from the East Coast? Or that a California call center is calling East Coast taxpayers at 4:00 am?

I get that you were trying to illustrate that calls don't always happen [between 9am - 5pm in any given individual's time zone], but that night shift anecdote pretty much just confused the topic further.

texano, I have no reason to believe that you are not an IRS agent. And if you'll look at my words again, I didn't say that I doubted you are an IRS agent, or that I doubt that outbound after-hours calls can be made.

I said that I personally have never known an after-hours call to happen, and that I doubted your implication that very late-night calls are made. Further, it is pretty difficult to swallow that government employees are working late at night on a bank holiday.

Even further, I am increasingly challenged to buy in to your position that "this has all the hallmarks of a valid IRS call" when the caller clearly did not follow your own stated agency protocol regarding what to do when a callee balks at providing SSN.

Let's consider the OP's actual situation: no known IRS issue... evening call the night before Thanksgiving... even if the OP had provided a daytime phone number on recent 1040 filing, why would the IRS have the OP's home phone and cell phone number, unless this were an ongoing IRS problem, i.e. previously known? Why did "Mrs. Russell" not follow protocol for an SSN verification?

Let's stay focused on whether those particular details make it seem likely that it was a real IRS call—rather than getting mired in all the outlier cases where your version might reasonably possibly feasibly happen.

I'm sorry if it feels like you are being unfairly castigated but let's not get overly dramatic regarding those of us who still believe the OP's call is a scam—even in the face of your firsthand personal experience as an IRS agent. You're not actually a Pre-Hellenic astrologer proving that the earth is round to a bunch of 3rd century farmers. MetaFilter has a history of folks magically appearing at oddly opportune times with a contradictory point of view—and likewise has a history of taking those people with a grain of salt until facts come to light.

Until the OP reports back as to whether this was a scam or whether the IRS was actually looking for him, we're all just guessing. My gut says scam, yours doesn't. Tomato, tomahto.
posted by pineapple at 6:04 PM on November 25, 2010

Yep, I agree with pineapple that there are too many fishy things in this call for it to sound real. One fishy thing (the caller not giving the appropriate SSN prompt) on its own might not be enough, but there's also the business where the caller pressured the OP to talk to her and the bit where the OP has no awareness of any outstanding ACS activity and has received no correspondence relating to same. The chances of all three things occurring to the same person on the night before Thanksgiving seem quite slim, compared to the chance of a scammer having the shrewdness to offer a legitimate IRS callback number as an alternative.

And I say this as someone who is dealing with a hideously complicated IRS thing that's been going on for years.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:42 PM on November 25, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
I called the main IRS 800 number (800-829-1040) today and it turns out the call was legit - they needed to straighten out a detail on my 2009 return (which was filed a bit later this year on an extension). The agent I spoke to today seemed surprised that I hadn't received anything in the mail prior to the call, and what the original agent I spoke to neglected to do was:

1. Give me the last four digits of my SSN and ask me to verify the first five, and
2. Give me a case number to refer to when I called back.

Frankly, even if she had done either of those things I still would not have gone any further with her; even though it turned out to be on the up and up it just set off way to many warning bells for an incoming, unsolicited phone call. But thank you to texano for jumping in with your thorough and accurate response (and welcome to MeFi!)
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:49 AM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

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