Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when scammers pose as the IRS it means trouble for taxpayers. Identity thieves may contact taxpayers through fraudulent calls, emails, texts or social media messages pretending to be the IRS. Here are tips to help taxpayers know when the IRS is contacting them.
Letters and notices
A letter or notice is usually the first way the IRS will contact a taxpayer. When a taxpayer receives a suspicious letter or notice, they can check to see if it’s really the IRS:
- Log in to their secure IRS Online Account to see if a copy of the notice or letter is in their file.
- Review common IRS letters and notices at the Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter page on IRS.gov.
- Contact IRS customer service directly to authenticate it, if they weren’t able to authenticate in their online account.
- Verify that any collection notice from a private collection agency has the same Taxpayer Authentication Number as the Notice CP40 the taxpayer received from the IRS. Taxpayers can visit Private Debt Collection Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about verifying a private collection agency.
After first mailing a notice or letter to a taxpayer, IRS agents may call to confirm an appointment or discuss items for a scheduled audit. Taxpayers should know that:
- The IRS doesn’t leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. Scammers will tell victims that if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Anyone making threats is a scammer.
- Private collection agencies contracted by the IRS may call taxpayers to collect certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative have received written notice.
- The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never ask a taxpayer to pay using any form of pre-paid card, store or online gift card. Taxpayers can review the IRS payments page at IRS.gov/payments for all legitimate ways to make a payment.
Email, text and social media
The IRS doesn’t first contact taxpayers by email, text message or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Some common electronic scams that thieves use are:
- Sending phishing emails to taxpayers.
- Posing as an IRS social media account to contact taxpayers about a fake bill or refund.
- Texting taxpayers about fake “tax credits” or “stimulus payments.”
These messages will often direct taxpayers to click fraudulent links they claim are IRS websites or other online tools. Again, the IRS will mail a letter or notice before calling or emailing, and it will never contact a taxpayer by social media or text message.
In person visits
The IRS recently ended most unannounced visits to taxpayers by agency revenue officers. Ending these unannounced visits to taxpayers will improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees.