Phone and Email Scams

Innocent people may receive aggressive and threatening phone calls or emails from criminals impersonating IRS agents. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card or gift card, like an iTunes card. They often threaten police arrest, deportation, and driver’s license revocation, among other things.

On the other hand, they may claim that you are owed a refund and ask for your bank account information in order to pay you in order to steal your identity.

These scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. They use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests.

Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

The IRS advises people to hang up the phone.

If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS advises:

  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

Any of these is a tell-tale sign of a scam:

The IRS will never:

  • Call, text, or contact you via social media to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • Demand payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest you without paying or threaten you with a lawsuit.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Be hostile or insulting.
  • Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

When Are IRS Phone Calls Legitimate?

IRS revenue officers work directly with taxpayers to educate them about their options to resolve delinquencies and to collect delinquent taxes and tax returns, while protecting taxpayers' rights.

IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.

Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities but only after the taxpayer and their representative has received written notice. Private debt collectors for the IRS must respect taxpayers' rights and abide by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

When are IRS Visits Legitimate?

IRS revenue officers routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss tax matters. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer; however, payment will never be requested to a source other than the US Treasury.

IRS revenue agents usually visit taxpayers or tax professionals to conduct the audit after either mailing a notice and/or agreeing on the day and time. IRS revenue agents will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss a tax matter. They will not demand any sort of payment.

Ask For Credentials

IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV). Pocket commissions describe the specific authority and responsibilities of the authorized holder. The PIV is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Criminal investigators also have a badge and law enforcement credentials.

Paying Taxes

All tax payments are to the U.S. Treasury. Taxpayers should never use a preloaded debit card or wire transfer to make a payment. The IRS provides specific guidelines on how to make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.

For taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up or delete the email immediately.
  • Contact Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the contact. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.

For those who owe taxes or think they do:

  • Call your tax preparer’s office.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040.