IRS: Taxpayers should remain vigilant for phishing emails, telephone scams
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned taxpayers on Thursday, May 31 to remain vigilant for phishing emails and telephone scams. Summertime tends to be a favorite period for scammers because many taxpayers have recently filed a return and may be waiting for a response from the IRS.
The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – urge taxpayers to remain alert to tax scams year-round, especially immediately after the tax filing season ends. Even after the April deadline passes, the tax scam season doesn’t end.
While many of the scams are variations on a theme and tend to evolve over time, taxpayers should be on the lookout for any attempt to get them to disclose personal information like Social Security numbers, account information or passwords. If in doubt, don’t give it out. Those receiving such calls should hang up and initiate correspondence with the agency that is purportedly inquiring about their account using a well-known phone number or email address. Clicking on links provided in emails or calling back unfamiliar phone numbers is not recommended.
The IRS does not call and leave pre-recorded, urgent messages asking for a call back. In this tactic, the victim is told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other variations may include threat of other law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.
Criminals are able to fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state Department of Motor Vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.
Email phishing scams
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.
Telltale signs of a scam
The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page.
- Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to email@example.com (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:
- View tax account information online at IRS.gov to see the actual amount owed. Taxpayers can then also review their payment options.
- Call the number on the billing notice, or
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.
The IRS does not use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is also available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.