IRS Warns of Phishing and Phone Scams

The IRS saw a big spike in phishing and phone call scams during the 2016 tax season. This trend continues in 2017 as criminals work hard to confuse taxpayers and steal sensitive information during filing season. Are you at risk?

Gone Phishing

In these email schemes, criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes. They may hack an email account and send mass emails under another person’s name. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.

Scam emails and websites can also infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware without the user knowing it. Malware can give the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access sensitive files in addition to keyboard strokes and login information.

If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by forwarding the email to phishing@irs.gov.  Learn more by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers. During filing season, the IRS generally sees a surge in scam phone calls that threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports they have become aware of over 10,000 victims who have collectively paid over $54 million due to phone scams since October 2013.

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill and con the victim into sending cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card or gift card, like an iTunes card. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls” or via a phishing email.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Taxpayers should be aware the IRS will never:

  • 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.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Stay alert to scams using the IRS as a lure. These tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.