Don’t Respond to IRS Phone Call Scams and Fake IRS Emails

They’re Just Phishing for Your Personal or Financial Information

The IRS does NOT contact taxpayers by phone call out of the blue or via email, but through official correspondence sent through the U.S. mail. Be aware that whenever you get an angry or threatening call from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment it is a SCAM.  Similarly, if you receive a phone call from the IRS advising that you are owed a huge refund and the caller needs your bank account information it is a SCAM.  That is not how the IRS operates. Hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or the IRS.

It is essential that taxpayers know that the IRS WILL:

  • NEVER ask for credit card information over the telephone.
  • NEVER insist that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay their tax obligations.
  • NEVER request immediate payment over the telephone.
  • NEVER take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers will usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
  • NEVER threaten to bring in the local police or other agencies to arrest you unless you pay.
  • NEVER threaten you with a lawsuit.

THE SCAM

Potential phone or email scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to huge refunds. Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims may hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call center.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF SOMEONE CALLS OR EMAILS YOU

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to talk to a real IRS employee.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Phishing scams via email are unsolicited, bogus emails that claim to come from the IRS.  These will often use fake refunds, phony tax assessments or tax bills, or threaten an audit. Some of these emails will even link to a sham website that looks real.  The scammers goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they are after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

If you get a phishing email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, please do the following:

  • Do NOT Reply to the message.
  • Do NOT give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Do NOT open any attachments or click on any URL links. These may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

Everyone MUST be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media. Also, the IRS does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

THE LAST WORD

I get calls every week from taxpayers wondering whether a call from the IRS is real or not or an email telling them they have won the lottery or received an inheritance from someone they’ve never heard of. Please remember the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is not true.” Similarly, if the IRS is calling you and you have not initiated the call, it’s a scam.  Having said that, if you have a real tax issue that needs to be addressed by a tax professional, I am here to help.  Please call me (Rex Halverson) at 916-444-0015.