When it comes to scams, the IRS scam is one of the most common and most costly. This type of scam typically involves someone posing as an IRS agent and trying to trick taxpayers into sending them money. The scammer may contact you by phone, email or even in person. They may threaten you with arrest or deportation if you don’t pay up. They may also claim that you owe back taxes or fees and demand payment immediately.
While the IRS does contact taxpayers about owed taxes, they will never threaten you with arrest or deportation. They also will not demand immediate payment or ask for payment in a specific way, such as by wire transfer or gift card. If you receive a suspicious call or email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, do not give them any personal information or money. Hang up the phone or delete the email. You can also report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Warning Signs of an IRS Scam
These scams can be hard to spot, but there are some red flags that can help you identify an IRS scam. You are likely experiencing a tax scam if someone claiming to be from the IRS:
- Threatens to have you arrested or deported if you don’t pay.
- Acts aggressively.
- Tells you that you owe money but refuses to give you any details about the debt.
- Demands that you pay immediately by wire transfer, gift card or prepaid debit card.
- Asks you to provide bank account or credit card information so they can direct deposit your refund.
- Gives you a call back number that is fake or doesn’t match the IRS’s real number, 1-800-829-1040.
- Refuses to give you their name or IRS employee identification number.
Immediate Action Steps
If you have been involved in an IRS scam, it’s important to follow these steps right away to secure and protect yourself and your finances:
- If you provided financial information, such as a credit card or bank account number, call your bank or credit card company right away. They will be able to help you change any compromised accounts and may be able to cancel the transaction.
- If you paid using gift cards or money transfers, contact the issuer.
- If you provided personal information, like your Social Security number, you may be at risk for identity theft. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will make it harder for the scammer to open new accounts in your name.
- If your social security number is stolen, call the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 908-4490 and complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039). This will help prevent someone from submitting a tax return in your name.
- Report any unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS to [email protected]
- Report any and all internet crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 can review your report and refer it to the appropriate agencies.
How to Avoid Future IRS Scams
Remember, the IRS typically makes initial contact with taxpayers via mail. They will never initiate contact with you by phone, email, text or social media and threaten lawsuits or arrests. If you receive any suspicious correspondence, do not reply or click on any links. When in doubt, hang up the phone, delete the email and don’t give out any personal information. Don’t let a scammer take advantage of you.
If you have any questions about your taxes or think you may owe money to the IRS, contact them directly at 1-800-829-1040. An IRS customer service representative will be able to help you resolve any issues.
Learn more about IRS scams and other types of scams on our government/military imposter scams page.