IRS Scams: Common Scams and How to Protect Yourself

Robocalls allow scammers to target the elderly and other vulnerable individuals all over the nation. One of the most common scams involve individuals pretending to be representatives of the IRS. Listed below are some of the most common "IRS scams" and tips for determining if a communication you have received from the IRS is legitimate or not. If you would like more extensive explanations or information, please visit the IRS’s website on scams, the IRS provides frequent updates at the website below:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts

If you have received any communications purporting to be the IRS, whether over the phone, through the mail, or via email, be sure it is the IRS before responding. Scammers rely on the fact that individuals will be so nervous or flustered by negative news about their taxes that the victims will not ask the proper questions, and ultimately release incredibly sensitive personal information.

IRS will only contact you via regular USPS mail. Even if the IRS does contact you via telephone for a special purpose, they will attempt to initiate contact via mail first. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payments by special method (such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer). In most cases, the IRS requests payments via mail. The IRS will not demand that you immediately pay the taxes owed without an opportunity to review or appeal the amount they say you owe. The IRS should always advise you of your rights as a taxpayer. Additionally, the IRS will not send unsolicited emails.

Most importantly, the IRS does not threaten to revoke your driver’s license, immigration status, or your social security number. These empty threats are used to incite panic and fear, increasing the likelihood that a vulnerable individual will cooperate with requests from the scammer.


The Social Security Number Trick

This approach involves the scammer threatening to cancel or withdraw the victim’s social security number. The goal of the scammer is to frighten people to respond to robocalls or voicemails. The IRS does not cancel or suspend your social security numbers. Please either ignore these calls or report them using the information below. Do not provide your personal information over the phone.


The Fake Tax Agency Trick


In this common scam, the victim receives a letter threatening to place an IRS lien or levy on the victim’s property unless immediate payment is made. The fake tax debt is based on delinquent taxes owed to a nonexistent agency, often called the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” The goal of the scammer is to confuse the victim into thinking the letter is legitimate, often by using similar terminology and formatting. If you are concerned about whether a letter is legitimate, you can contact the IRS or a tax professional. Always use the official IRS contact information (800-829-1040).


The Fake Refund Tax Trick


This scam is when the victim is contacted over the phone and told that they are entitled to an unexpected refund, but they must first provide their personal information. The scammer may have a fake name and badge number, they may have some information about the victim. Scammers also have the ability to "spoof" their phone number, making their caller ID appear to be a number related to the IRS. Do not provide any personal information over the phone. If you are concerned as to whether you may owe taxes or be owed a refund, contact your tax professional or the IRS at 800-829-1040.



If you are contacted by a potential scammer, do not provide them with any personal or tax information. Instead, report the phone call, letter, or email to the IRS using the information below.

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.


Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

If you have questions about communications you may have received from the IRS, feel free to contact our office at (406) 443-1040.

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