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, usually 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 which reads “click here.” Or, you may see a button that links you to a fraudulent form or website.
How to report IRS imposter scams
Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) if you think 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to avoid IRS imposter scams
There are things you can do to protect yourself from 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 the caller to provide their name, badge number, and callback number. Then call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to find out if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate reason to contact you. If you confirm that the caller is from the IRS, call them back. Otherwise, report the scam call to TIGTA.
- 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 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 using a technique called spoofing.
- Don’t click on any links in email or text messages to verify your information.
Learn About Tax ID Theft and How To Avoid It
Tax ID theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file taxes and claim a tax refund. You may not know that your tax ID has been stolen until you:
- E-file your tax return and find that another return has already been filed using your Social Security number, or
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sends a 5071C letter to the address on the federal tax return indicating that tax ID theft has occurred.
Find out what steps you can take after receiving a 5071C letter and how you can avoid or report tax ID scams.
What is a 501C letter?
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
How to report tax ID theft
It’s important to take action if you receive a 5071C letter from the IRS. You can also take these steps if you become the victim of a tax ID theft or if you receive a letter from the IRS about a problem.
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice by calling the number provided on the letter. If instructed, go to the IRS Identity Verification Service.
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Print it, then mail or fax it according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
- 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.
If you’ve already contacted the IRS, but still need more tax ID theft assistance, you can call 1-800-908-4490.
You should also take these steps to report the scam and protect your bank accounts:
- 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.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Contact your financial institutions to close any accounts opened without your permission or that show unusual activity.
Prevent tax ID theft with an identification protection ID
Identification Protection PINs (IP PIN) are six-digit numbers issued to taxpayers by the IRS to prevent tax ID theft. If you’ve experienced tax ID theft in the past, the IRS will automatically issue you an IP PIN. You can also voluntarily request one. After the IRS issues your IP PIN, you will use it to file your return. This will help the IRS confirm your identity so no one can file a return using your personal information to fraudulently collect a refund. Learn more about the IP PIN and how you can apply.
Tips to protect yourself from tax ID theft
Follow these steps to prevent tax identity theft.
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 collection actions taken against you for a year when you did not file a tax return.
- You have had a tax refund offset.
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
Don’t reply to or click on any links in suspicious emails, texts, and social media messages. Make sure to report anything suspicious to the IRS.
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.
To avoid tax transcript scams, learn the real way to get a tax transcript from the IRS.
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 email@example.com 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.
Learn more from the IRS about the tax transcript scam.