Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

If the IRS calls or emails you, it's a scammer

Tax filer: Don't worry if you get a phone call, a text, or an email from the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax filer: Don't worry if you get a phone call, a text, or an email from the Internal Revenue Service.

It's not the IRS. It's a scam artist.

This year, the criminals are putting a new twist on an old script. They call saying they already have your tax return and just need to verify details to process your refund.

The scammers try to persuade you to give up personal information such as Social Security number, driver's license details, bank account numbers, or credit-card numbers.

Hang up the phone. Don't click on that email. The days of giving out information unsolicited are over.

"These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said last week.

"Don't be fooled. The IRS won't be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment."

Scammers claiming to be IRS officials may demand that you pay a bogus tax bill by sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may leave "urgent" messages by phone or via email.

They may politely ask you, the taxpayer, to verify your identity over the phone. They may try to bully or intimidate you. They may even threaten to arrest or deport you or revoke your driver's license if they don't get money.

One reader said he had been called by someone claiming to be an IRS agent who demanded that they meet in the parking lot of a local Walmart to exchange cash.

Often, scammers alter caller IDs to make it look as if the IRS or another agency is calling. They may use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may even have your name and address to make the call sound official.

To repeat, the IRS will never:

Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.

Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.

Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

Ask for credit- or debit-card numbers over the phone or email.

Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups if you don't pay.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or to verify your identity, do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use the "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" Web page ( or call 1-800-366-4484. If you know you owe on your taxes, or think you owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

Tax planners and accountants confirm that scammers are hard at work this tax season.

"I have had four clients call me since the beginning of the year with IRS scams, and I'm sure there are more who just ignored them, as I told them," said Mary Lew Kehm, a certified public accountant in Whitehall, Pa.

"Their script now attempts to validate as opposed to threaten," said Michael A. Gillen, director of the tax accounting group at the Duane Morris law firm in Center City.

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund