By Jeanne Sahadi @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
January 22, 2015: 2:13 PM ET
If someone calls saying he's an IRS agent and demands that you send money immediately, hang up.
It's a phone scam.
In fact, it tops the IRS "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams this year, and it's been surging in recent months, the agency said Thursday.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which oversees the IRS, has received reports of 290,000 scam calls since October 2013 and said nearly 3,000 victims have been swindled out of $14 million so far.
By altering their caller ID number to make it look like they're calling from an IRS office, these scammers often threaten vulnerable people like the elderly and new immigrants with things like arrest, deportation or the loss of their driver's license if they don't pay immediately for money purportedly owed.
Often leaving messages that say it's "urgent" you call them back, the scammers use common names and sometimes say they are from the IRS Criminal Division. They may even claim to know the last four digits of your Social Security number and send follow-up emails that appear to be from the IRS, TIGTA said.
They often demand that payments be made by prepaid debit card.
Once they make their threats, the scammers have been known to call back and again disguise their caller ID so it appears they are calling from the police department or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Or sometimes when they call, they may say you have a refund due and ask you to provide personal information so you can claim it.
The real IRS will usually contact you by regular mail first, if it needs to contact you at all. And the agency never demands immediate payment by phone or asks for credit card or debit numbers if they do call. It also never asks for personal or financial information by email, text or social media.
If you get what you suspect is a scam call, report it to TIGTA through its Web site or call 800-366-4484.