Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. The attacks tend to increase during tax season and remain a major danger of identity theft. Often the scams come in the form of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media cleverly disguised to look like it’s from the IRS, and either promises a big refund or appears to be threatening in a request to obtain money.
The IRS urges you to learn how to protect yourself by not opening attachments or clicking on embedded e-mail links designed to steal your personal or financial information. Unknowingly opening a malicious email attachment or clicking on a link to a website can infect your computer or smart device with malware, allowing criminals the ability to download and access sensitive files, track keyboard strokes, and expose sensitive data.
It is important to remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam, because the IRS will not:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
If you receive an IRS scam be sure to report the incident to:
- 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 and add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes sections.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.