Avoiding IRS Phone Scams

September 24, 2020

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We have received a few calls recently from our customers reporting encounters with individuals impersonating IRS officials over the telephone. This is a very common tactic for scammers to try and steal your personal information and we want to take this opportunity to advise our customers how they can avoid getting scammed the next time they pick up the phone.

Threatening IRS Impersonator Phone Calls

IRS impersonation scams come in many forms. A common one remains bogus threatening phone calls from a criminal claiming to be with the IRS. The scammer attempts to instill fear and urgency in the potential victim. In reality, the IRS would never threaten a taxpayer or surprise them with a demand for immediate payment.

Phone scams or "vishing" (voice phishing) pose a major threat. Scam phone calls, including those threatening arrest, deportation or license revocation if the victim doesn't pay a bogus tax bill, are reported year-round. These calls often take the form of a "robocall" (a text-to-speech recorded message with instructions for returning the call).

The IRS will never demand immediate payment, threaten, ask for financial information over the phone, or call about an unexpected refund or Economic Impact Payment. Taxpayers should contact the real IRS if they worry about having a tax problem.

IRS Phone Scams

The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many variations of the phone scam, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other verbal threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.

Criminals can 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 departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.

When in doubt, remember that the IRS does not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.

How You Can Help

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer pretending to be from the IRS, you should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. You can call the Inspector General at 800-366-4484 or visit their "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" web page. You should also report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission using the "FTC Complaint Assistant" on FTC.gov. If you contact the FTC, make sure to add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes so they are aware of the type of scam you are reporting.

If you want to learn more about general IRS scams, you can visit the IRS page for Tax Scam information.


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