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Avoiding Scammers Who Claim They Are IRS Agents

In July 2022, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published Fact Sheet 2022-33. This IRS publication is designed to assist taxpayers in knowing whether an individual who contacts them is from the IRS or is a fraudster.

The IRS is concerned because there are continuing phone, text, email, and in-person scams taking place. The IRS emphasizes that it normally sends a letter or written notice to a taxpayer and generally does not initiate contact through phone, text or email.

With a growing number of fraudsters and scammers seeking to locate victims, it is important for individuals to be able to separate legitimate IRS staff from imposters. All taxpayers should understand basic ways to protect themselves from fraudulent text messages, emails, phone contacts, or in-person visits.
  1. Text Messages — The IRS does not send text messages to individuals with shortened links. The scammers will frequently send a text message that includes a bogus link. If you receive an unexpected text, you should NOT click on links or open attachments.
  2. If you do receive a suspicious text message, you should send a screen shot of it as an attachment to [email protected].
  3. Email Scams — The IRS does not ask for personal or financial information with an initial contact by email. The standard IRS contact will be through several letters by regular mail. The suspicious email should also be forwarded to [email protected]. There is a "Report Phishing and Online Scams" page on IRS.gov with specific instructions.
  4. Individuals Who Owe Tax — If you owe tax to the IRS, you can expect to receive several letters prior to a phone call. The IRS may follow up the letters with a phone call if you have an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return or have failed to make an unemployment tax deposit. The IRS emphasizes it will not demand immediate payment with a debit card or gift card, will not threaten you with arrest by the local police, will not demand tax payments without giving you an opportunity to appeal the claim and will not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. These strategies all indicate you are talking with a scammer.
  5. IRS Agent In-Person Visits — Generally, IRS officers only make visits after you have received several notices by mail. The IRS Revenue Agent may make a visit for the purpose of education, investigation and appropriate enforcement steps. IRS auditors also may mail an initial appointment letter and generally will call and confirm the date prior to a scheduled audit appointment. If you have an in-person visit with an IRS representative, you should always ask for his or her credentials and HSPD-12 card. This is a standard government form of identification.
  6. Resolving Tax Issues — On IRS.gov, there are several helpful sections that may assist taxpayers in creating payment plans. You can pay taxes through the Online Account with IRS Direct Pay or with your debit or credit card. There are individuals who may qualify for a payment plan or an Offer in Compromise. The IRS again emphasizes it will not demand immediate payment, will not ask for credit or debit card numbers, will not threaten to have you arrested by local police and will always offer an opportunity to appeal. An IRS Appeals Officer may review your case prior to any further action.
Editor's Note: Fraudsters and scammers continue to become more sophisticated. Many of them build a relationship with the victim through multiple emails or phone calls prior to taking action to complete a fraud. Individuals should be careful if they are in the midst of multiple contacts with a fraudster or scammer who claims to be from the IRS.

Published July 29, 2022
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