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 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 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 5071C 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.
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 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.