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Thousands of people have fallen for tax scams and lost millions of dollars in the process.  Often criminals impersonate IRS agents to trick you into paying for taxes or fees you don’t really owe.  Keep reading to learn the warning signs of an IRS phone scam.

How do the scams work?

There are numerous tactics criminals use to scam you out of your money.  Usually, they’ll tell you about a bogus tax bill and demand that you pay immediately to avoid dire consequences. However, there are other variations of the scam.  You may receive a robocall threatening to cancel or suspend your Social Security number.  Other times, IRS impersonators will claim they received your tax return and need to verify some information before it can be processed.  Any details you provide will be stolen.  For the same reason, you need to watch out for spoof calls from an IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office, specifically Brooklyn or Houston. 

Easy ways to spot an IRS scam

They call, text or contact you on social media first

The IRS is very old school.  When they need to reach you, their first course of action is to send a letter via the U.S. Postal Service. They will not ask you for personal of financial information over the phone, email or social media.

You aren’t given a chance to appeal the amount owed

A telltale sign of a scam is that the caller will demand immediate payment.  That’s not how the IRS operates.  If you receive a notice from the IRS and don’t agree with their findings, you’re given a chance to appeal.  Your notice will provide specific instructions for handling the situation.

It’s required that you pay using a specific method

Once you hear that you must pay using a specific method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer, just know it’s a scam.  At no point will the real IRS ask for your debit or credit card numbers over the phone.  If you used ezTaxReturn.com to prepare your return and have a balance due, you can log into your account to review your payment options.

Threats to have you deported, arrested or your license revoked

Scammers know people will do almost anything when they’re scared which is why they’ll often threaten to call the police or immigration officers to have you arrested for not paying.  Let’s be clear, the IRS cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses or immigration status.

How to report the fraudulent call

If you know for a fact that you don’t owe any taxes, here are the steps you need to take.

  1. Don’t entertain the caller just hang up.
  2. Inform the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) about the call using their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page.  Taxpayers can also call 800-366-4484.
  3. Report the caller ID and callback number to the IRS by sending an email to phishing@irs.gov.  Use “IRS Phone Scam” as the subject.
  4. Notify the Federal Trade Commission using their “FTC Complaint Assistant”.  Make sure you include “IRS Phone Scam” in the notes.