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Common Tax Scams and Fake IRS Communication

Scammers: no one likes them, but dealing with them is a sad reality today.  According to the IRS, millions of dollars and personal information have been lost to tax scams and fake IRS communication.  It's important to be aware of what types of scams are common and how to best handle it should you find yourself in one of these situations.

The most important thing for people to remember when it comes to tax scams and fake IRS communication is that the IRS will never call, text, or email you.  There is no exception.  If you owe the IRS money or if they simply need additional information from you regarding a return, they will send a formal letter.  It's also important to note that the IRS doesn't threaten tax payers.  Lawsuits, jailtime, or other actions – that's not what the IRS does.

A common and effective scam that has been making the rounds in recent years involves scammers calling tax payers, claiming to be an employee of the IRS (often even offering a fake IRS badge number).  These callers will usually know a lot about the person they are calling – counting on the amount of information they have about their target to convince the person that the call is genuine.  The victim will be told he/she owes the IRS money and it must be paid promptly.  They'll also threaten the person with arrest, suspension of his/her license, or even deportation.  Many people who have been victims of this type of scam report that the caller gets hostile and threatening.

Another phone scam that taxpayers should be aware of is one in which the caller’s goal is not to get money, but to get personal information.  There are reports of scammers informing tax payers that he/she has a refund due to them, but information must be collected or verified for the refund to be issued.  Never provide personal information (full name, birthdate, address, social security number, or bank information) over the phone.

Phishing scams are also rising in frequency.  When identity theft takes place via email, it is called phishing.  Emails with the IRS logo that look official are common and may ask for personal or financial information.  There are also scams that look like they come from tax professionals and will ask for information such as filing status, personal information, PIN information, and more.  Taxpayers may also receive an email that appears to come from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about a tax refund.  Again, the goal is the obtain personal or financial information.  TAP is a real thing (it's a volunteer board that advises the IRS on system issues affecting taxpayers), but it does not have access to any taxpayer's personal or financial information.

If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS or from a related entity such as EFTPS, report it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Remember, the IRS will NEVER: 

  • Call, email, text or contact you via social media. If the IRS needs to communicate with you, they will mail you an official letter.
  • Call or email to demand payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid card or wire transfer. The IRS will mail you a bill if you owe money.
  • Threaten with law-enforcement due to non-payment.
  • Demand the payment of taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the bill.
  • Ask for payment information (debit/credit card number or bank account information) over the phone or via email.

If you receive genuine communication from the IRS, it's important to act fast. Check out our previous blog for a list of the steps you should take to resolve the matter quickly.