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The tax season may have come and gone but scammers work year-round.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that nearly 4,000 taxpayers have collectively lost over $20 million due to tax-related scams.  Although IRS posers traditionally target new immigrants and senior citizens, no one is off limits. One of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim is to stay on top of the latest trends. Scare tactics, caller ID spoofing and phishing are just a few tax scams gaining popularity.

Scare tactics

If you randomly receive a call from the IRS threatening to have you deported for unpaid taxes, hang up. Scammers have been trying to scare taxpayers into making false payments by impersonating the IRS over the phone. These calls are aggressive in nature with most threatening to have you arrested, deported or having your driver’s license revoked unless you fulfill their request.  More often than not, they’ll ask to be paid via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.  The real IRS will never initiate contact by phone, email or social media. Instead, you’ll receive a notice in the U.S. mail. This notice will explain why they’re reaching out to you and instructions on what to do next. The IRS will never seek immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to ask questions or appeal the balance amount.  They also don’t have a preferred payment method.

Caller ID spoofing

Technology makes it easy to pretend to be someone you’re not. Websites exist to help prank your friends by disguising your phone number and changing your voice. While you may use the site for harmless fun, scammers have other intentions. They have been changing the display information to make it seem like it’s the IRS trying to reach you for payment. Some will even mention a job title and fake badge number to make the call seem legitimate. If you receive a call from an IRS impersonator and know for a fact that you don’t owe any taxes, use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form at treasury.gov to report the incident.   You’ll also need to inform the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov.


Phishers have been sending emails that appear to come from the IRS. These emails will direct you to a website where you’ll be asked to update your information in order to complete the e-file process, claim a refund or pay a balance due. Although the email and website will mimic the IRS’ appearance, it’s actually a ploy to steal your identity. In some cases, if you click on any of the links or attachments provided, malware will be installed on your computer.  One of the easiest ways to spot a phishing scheme is to check the sender address. Criminals will usually choose an email address that closely resembles the one they’re trying to mimic. For example, instead of JohnDoe@irs.gov, they may use _JohnDoe@irs.com. Other red flags include misspellings, threats, poor grammar and mismatched links.