IRS imposter scams occur when someone contacts you pretending to work for the IRS. The imposter may contact you by phone, email, postal mail, or even a text message. There are two common types of scams:
Tax collection - You receive a phone call or letter, claiming that you owe taxes. They will demand that you pay the amount immediately often with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.
Verification - You receive an email or text message that requires you to verify your personal information. The message often includes a hyperlink phrase “click here” or a button to a fraudulent form or website.
There are things to look out for to prevent being a victim of an IRS imposter scam.
Beware if someone calls claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes.
Ask a caller to provide their name and badge number and callback number. Then call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. If the person legitimately is from the IRS, call them back. Otherwise report it to the IRS.
Don’t click on any links in email or text messages to verify your information.
Video: Watch Out for IRS Imposter Scams
Know the signs of IRS imposter phone calls.
0:00 Scam artists are pretending to be IRS officials
0:03 to get your money.
0:04 They'll call, email, or text you claiming you owe back taxes
0:08 or there's a problem with your tax return.
0:10 They even rig caller ID to make their call look official.
0:14 They play on your fears.
0:16 They threatened to take your driver's license
0:18 or sue, arrest, or deport you.
0:21 They want you to pay, fast.
0:23 What's the truth?
0:25 The truth is the IRS's first contact
0:27 with you will always be a letter in the mail.
0:29 It's not a phone call, email, or text message.
0:32 They won't insist that you pay with a prepaid debit
0:34 card, a wire transfers, or cashier's check.
0:38 Now you know.
0:41 Has an IRS impostor contacted you?
0:43 Report it at FTC.gov/impostors.
Tax ID Theft
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You may not be aware of the problem until you E-file your tax return and find out that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number. If the IRS suspects tax ID theft, they will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return. Keep in mind, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. Watch out for IRS imposter scams, when someone contacts you saying they work for the IRS.
Report Tax ID Theft
If you suspect you have become a victim of tax ID theft—or the IRS sends you a letter or notice indicating a problem—take these steps:
Understand the IRS 5071C Identity Verification Letter to Avoid Tax ID Theft
Tax ID theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file taxes and claim a tax refund. If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suspects tax ID theft has occurred, the agency will send a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return.
The 5071C letter is a legitimate letter from the IRS that provides instructions to verify that you submitted the tax return in question.
If you receive a 5071C letter, verify your identity with the IRS. There are two ways to verify your identity with the IRS:
Online on the IRS' secure Identity Verification Service website, idverify.irs.gov or
By calling the toll-free number listed in your letter.
You will be asked a series of questions to verify your identity. You will also be asked to confirm whether or not you filed the federal tax return in question.
You will need the following documents to verify your identity when you access the website or call:
Your previous year's federal tax return
Your current year's federal tax return, if you've already filed it
Supporting documents from this year's federal tax return, such as Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedules A and C
Although the 5071C letter is a legitimate IRS document, some scammers may be aware of this verification method. It’s important to take steps to avoid tax scams and fraud. Remember, the IRS will never start contact with you by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information.
Follow these steps to protect yourself from 5071C letter scams:
Look for the letter number in the upper corner of the page.
Don’t open email that claims to be a 5071C letter or claims to verify your tax return. The IRS does not send this letter or verify your identity via email.
Don't verify your information in response to a phone call. The IRS will not call you to verify this information, without having sent you the letter first.
Tax Transcript Email Scam
Scammers claiming to be from “IRS Online” are sending fraudulent email messages about tax transcripts. A transcript is a summary of your tax return. You may need a tax transcript to apply for a loan or for government assistance.
How Tax Transcript Scams Work
The scam works this way: you get an email with the words “tax transcripts” in the subject line. The email has an attachment named “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar. Don’t open this attachment.It’s malware known as Emotet that can infect your computer network and steal personal and business information.
The IRS will never call, email, or text you asking for your tax information. It will also not send you a message with an attachment asking you to log in to get a tax transcript or update your profile.
How to Protect Yourself and Report Tax Transcript Scams
Delete the email with the attachment or forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re on a personal computer.
Notify your technology office staff about the email if you’re on a work computer.
Don’t open the infected document because it contains malware.