The Area Code 315 Scam: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself From It

Area code 315 IRS scams can sound legit but they shouldn't be trusted

Area code 315 scam calls are phone calls made by scammers impersonating IRS employees. These calls appear to be made from phone numbers containing the 315 area code, which would place them in New York, but it’s unclear if this is where the scammers are actually based or they’re using phone spoofing technology to simply make it look like that’s where they are.

What Is the Area Code 315 Scam?

A common type of telephone scam is the IRS scam. In it, scammers impersonate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees and target individuals, claiming they owe the IRS overdue taxes. The scammers then try to convince their target to transfer them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

A conceptual illustration of an area code 315 scammer.
 Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

These calls are usually made to look as if they come from areas where an IRS office could potentially be located. One of the more-common locations used for this scam is north-central New York which has the area code 315. This is why this particular scam is often referred to as the area code 315 IRS scam and the calls are called area code 315 scam calls.

IRS scam calls have been known to appear as being made from area codes other than 315 as well.

How Does the 315 Scam Call Work?

Area code 315 IRS scams are usually much more involved than the typical phone scam. Scammers have been known to perform a significant amount of research on their targets before making the initial call so they can sound as believable as possible when they claim to be from the IRS. Scammers may claim to know the names of family members, the addresses of the target’s home and place of work, and other seemingly private information.

According to the IRS, over $23 million has been stolen from victims with this scam.

During the scam call, the scammer will tell their target they need to pay an unpaid tax bill as quickly as possible and will suggest specific payment methods such as a prepaid debit card or a money wire transfer. Both of these payment methods are popular with scammers as they’re harder to reverse than a bank transfer or credit card payment.

The scammers may threaten their target with arrest, deportation, business suspension, or a revocation of their drivers license. Occasionally, some area code 315 scammers can request their victims mail a copy of their payment receipt to a real IRS office location. This is done to further legitimize the scammer and is not a reliable indication that they are real IRS employees at all.

How Do the 315 Scammers Find Victims?

Scammers behind the area code 315 IRS scam likely find and collect information on their victims through the use of competitions on fake websites, sending phishing emails and text messages, and by searching social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

To avoid being tricked by scams such as the area code 315 IRS scam, it’s important to always be suspicious of phone calls from people asking for personal and financial information or those asking for money. IRS, and most other government organizations, will never ask for payment over the phone and they definitely will never threaten you. If one of these scammers calls you, hang up immediately.

Even if the caller ID says that the phone call is coming from an IRS office, you should still be suspicious as scammers often use caller ID spoofing to mask their true identity and imitate others.

If you’re worried about unpaid taxes or are unsure if you owe any, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to check.

I’m Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you think you’ve fallen victim to one of these area code 315 IRS scam calls, call the TIGTA on 800-366-4484 or fill in this form to file an official report. You can also file an additional IRS Telephone Scam report with the FTC.

If you’ve already sent money to the scammers, call your bank to explain the situation and try to get the related transactions reversed. If you’ve given the scammers your bank account or credit card information, you will need to also let your bank know about this so they can secure your account and potentially cancel your credit card. You may be able to reverse the transaction on PayPal if you sent money via that service.

Unfortunately, if you paid them via a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ripple, you won’t be able to get the money back as the associated blockchain technology used to power those digital currencies doesn’t support payment reversals.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted for the 315 Scam?

The best way to avoid being selected as a target in the area code 315 IRS scam and other similar scams is to limit the amount of personal information you have available for strangers to read online.

Make sure details like your phone number, address, financial data, and family members are only viewable by close friends and not the general public on Facebook and LinkedIn. You may even want to make such information totally private or completely remove it from social networks and websites.

It’s also a good idea to be wary of clicking website links in emails, text messages, and direct messages, as these can often be used by scammers to steal data for use in scam calls down the road.