Beware of IRS impersonators and other important tax information

February 21, 2018

Now that it’s officially tax season, you need to beware of tax refund scams. Common scams include individuals impersonating IRS officials, whether in-person, over the phone, or via email, in order to steal your personal information. They can then file fraudulent returns electronically under your identity.

Oftentimes, scammers will make threats or send urgent messages for the purpose of stealing your social security number and birthdate. Unlike previous IRS imposters, who were calling for the purpose of gaining your personal information for identity theft, crooks are now fabricating tax documents to e-file. Their demands are often very convincing and frightening.

Remember, the IRS does not:

1. Initiate contact by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information. Most contact is through regular USPS mail. There are some exceptions, but even then, you would generally receive several letters from the IRS in the mail.
2. Demand immediate payment, especially by methods like a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
3. Demand that you pay taxes without the chance to question or appeal.
4. Threaten to bring in police or immigration officers to have you arrested for not paying.
5. Revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status.

What the IRS will do:

If an IRS representative does visit you, they’re required to have two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a HSPD-12 card. You have the right to see these credentials.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about their credibility, you can ask the representative for a dedicated IRS telephone number for verifying the information on their credentials. Learn more about how to know if it’s really the IRS here.

If you receive a phone call or letter from someone claiming to be with the IRS, verify it by calling 800-829-1040.

Warning signs of tax fraud:

1. If you don’t receive your IRS refund within a month of e-filing, check its status at https://www.irs.gov/refunds.
2. If you believe more than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
3. If you’re notified that you owe additional tax, refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
4. If IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

What to do if you believe you’re a victim of tax fraud:

Finally, if you believe you’ve been contacted by an IRS impersonator, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484. Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For more information about tax scams and what you need to know, please visit these resources:

Tax Scams/ Consumer Alerts 
Instructions for requesting copy of fraudulent returns
How scammers try to steal your tax information
Taxpayer guide to identity theft