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IRS Scams

Find out how to report IRS scams, and learn how to identify and protect yourself from tax scams.

IRS Imposter Scams

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.

Report IRS Imposter Scams

Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) if you believe that an IRS imposter has contacted you. Report IRS imposter scams online or by calling TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484. Forward email messages that claim to be from the IRS to phishing@irs.gov.

Tips to Avoid IRS Imposter Scams

There are things to look out for to prevent being a victim of an IRS imposter scam.

Do:

  • 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.

  • Become familiar with what fraudulent IRS email messages look like. Review a sample IRS phishing email.

  • Verify the number of the letter, form, or notice on the IRS website.

  • Be suspicious of threats. The IRS won’t threaten to have police arrest you for not paying a bill.

Don’t:

  • Don’t give in to demands to pay money immediately. Be especially suspicious of demands to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.

  • Don’t trust the name or phone number on a caller ID display that shows “IRS.” Scammers often change the name that shows on caller ID.

  • 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.

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:

  1. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov. You can also call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
  2. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  3. Contact your financial institutions, and close any accounts opened without your permission or that show unusual activity.
  4. Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided. If instructed, go to the IRS Identity Verification Service.
  5. Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit; print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
  6. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
  7. Check with your state tax agency to see what steps to take at the state level.

How to Protect Yourself

Follow these steps to prevent tax identity theft:

Do

File your income taxes early in the season, before a thief can file taxes in your name. Also, Keep an eye out for any IRS letter or notice that states:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
  • You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

Don’t

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

If you are a victim of state tax ID theft, contact your state's taxation department or comptroller's office about the next steps you need to take.

How to Report 5071C Letter Scams

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.

If you receive a letter, notice, or form via paper mail or fax that you suspect is from someone pretending to be from the IRS, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or phishing@irs.gov.

How to Protect Yourself

Follow these steps to protect yourself from 5071C letter scams:

Do

  • Look for the letter number in the upper corner of the page.

Don’t

  • 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

Do: 

  • Delete the email with the attachment or forward it to phishing@irs.gov, if you’re on a personal computer.
  • Notify your technology office staff about the email if you’re on a work computer. 

Don’t:

  • Don’t open the infected document because it contains malware.

Learn more from the IRS about the tax transcript scam. 

Learn the real way to get a tax transcript from the IRS. 

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Last Updated: June 13, 2019

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