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Avoid scams by IRS impersonators

The amount of phone scams is increasing daily and becoming more and more sophisticated. The crooks are even trying to impersonate the IRS.  Knowledge about the IRS can prevent you from being conned by crooks.

The first thing you need to know is how the IRS initiates contact with you.  The IRS generally makes contact with you through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.  The IRS will never send you an email, text, or contact you through social media to discuss tax debts or refunds with a taxpayer.

Criminals may call you and impersonate IRS employees.  They will even tell you a name and give a fake badge number.  Some thieves have even used video relay services to try and scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals.  They’re demanding and sometimes threatening even saying if you don’t comply the police will come to your residence and arrest you.  They may tell you to pay using a credit card, gift card, wire transfer or other means.  Don’t give any of your financial information to anyone saying they are the IRS over the phone.

This is not how the IRS handles enforcement matters.  Normal correspondence begins with a letter but be careful.  Criminals are even sending phony letters that look like official letters telling you to send money to the IRS.  Letters from the IRS will never ask you to send money to any source other than “U. S. Treasury.”

The IRS may make official, unannounced visits but this is not generally their procedure.  Normally you will receive a letter even before a visit.  The IRS representative will always provide their official credentials, called a pocket commission and HSPD-12 card.  Taxpayers have the right to see these credentials, and if you are still unsure, they will provide you a toll-free employee verification telephone number.

IRS employees may call taxpayers to set appointments or discuss audits but not without first attempting to notify you by regular mail.

The IRS does assign certain overdue tax debts to private collection agencies(PCA) but will always send a letter to you first letting you know before you receive a call.  The PCA representative will identify themselves and will ask for payment to “U.S. Treasury“ only, and never any other source.  They will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit or gift card, and they can never take enforcement action.

If there is any doubt as to whether the demand for payment is the IRS, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Contacting the IRS by phone may take hours, so it is best to call when you have lots of time.  If you have a tax professional, they can contact the IRS in a matter of minutes by using the tax practitioner hotline and determine if it is actually the IRS.


David Zubler is the author of three books and a philanthropist.  All of his proceeds from the books go to a charitable foundation he created for underprivileged children.  He is also the founder of Your Tax Care which provides tax education.