Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. This page looks at the scams affecting individuals, businesses, and tax professionals and what do if you if you spot a tax scam.
REMEMBER: The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Being able to recognize these tell-tale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.
Information for Taxpayers
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Note that 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 you a bill if you owe any taxes.
Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Remember: Scammers Change Tactics -- Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike.
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people's computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
IR-2016-28, Consumers Warned of New Surge in IRS Email Schemes during 2016 Tax Season; Tax Industry Also Targeted
IR-2016-15, Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season
Email Phishing Scam: "Update your IRS e-file"
The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.
What do you do if you get these messages?
Do not respond to the email or click on the links.
Instead, they should forward the scam emails to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing web page.
Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), taxpayers are receiving emails that appear to be from TAP about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, where unsolicited emails which seem to come from legitimate organizations — but are really from scammers — try to trick unsuspecting victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in them. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, please forward it to email@example.com and note that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information.;
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security and PIN numbers or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.
Watch Out for These Recent Tax Scams
IR-2016-123 IRS and its Security Summit partners alert taxpayers to be on guard against fake emails purporting to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. Generally, the scam involves an email that includes a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015 as an attachment.
IR-2016-107 IRS reminds taxpayers against telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested. As schools around the nation prepare to re-open, it is important for taxpayers to be particularly aware of this scheme going after students and parents.
IR-2016-99 The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.
IR-2016-81 IRS warns taxpayers about bogus phone calls from IRS impersonators demanding payment for a non-existent tax, the “Federal Student Tax.” Scammers try to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake “federal student tax”, the scammer threatens to report the student to the police.
IR-2016-55 IRS warns taxpayers of a phishing scam targeting Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents where the email scammers are citing tax fraud and trying to trick victims into verifying “the last four digits of their social security number” by clicking on a link provided. As a further attempt to trick residents of the Capital region, the email scam even suggests that information from recent data breaches across the nation may be involved.
IR-2016-40 This variation tries to play off the current tax season. Scammers call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
IR-2016-34 Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including SSNs.