Lee Meyer, a retired New York City schoolteacher, recently began getting strange telephone calls on weekday afternoons. A woman claiming to be a Treasury Department official left a message and a phone number, Mr. Meyer said, telling him he needed to settle a “tax-fraud charge” or else he would be hauled in front of a “magistrate judge.”

His reaction? “I laughed,” he said. “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Mr. Meyer, 83, did not return the calls, having learned long ago what law enforcement and consumer protection officials say many Americans need to remember: The Internal Revenue Service does not call people and threaten legal action or harass them over debts.

The Justice Department recently highlighted that message when it announced it had broken up a vast I.R.S. impersonation operation in which conspirators in the United States coordinated with call centers in India from 2012 to 2016, causing “hundreds of millions of…

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