Protect yourself from tax scams
Be aware of scammers—Tax scams can happen any time of year. They may come as emails, text messages, or phone calls. They pretend to be and can look like they're from the IRS, a tax company, a bill collector, or a state tax agency.
Avoid email scams & phishing attempts
Criminals try to steal your personal information, like passwords, Social Security Numbers, and bank and credit card information. These scam emails looks like they come from a trusted source and often contain links to a fake login page on a “spoofed” or “phishing” website. These fake websites often look exactly like the real website.
Watch out for emails that look like they’re from:
- Your financial institution, a tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link
- Your employer, requesting payroll and human resource information
- The IRS, saying something like ”you have a refund waiting”
Pay close attention to:
- The sender’s email address in the “From” line to make sure it exactly matches the organization’s official email address. Note: Official government email addresses end in “.gov”, like IRS.gov and HealthCare.gov.
- Urgent, threatening subject lines or email titles Scammers try to trick or scare you into giving them your personal and financial information.
- Uninvited requests to verify or update your personal information, like passwords, log in security codes, bank or credit card numbers and Social Security Numbers. Uninvited emails from real banks and financial institutions, tax preparers, and government agencies will never ask you to verify confidential information. We’ll never ask you for your password or log in security code.
- Links within the email - Emails can contain a mix of links to the fake website and the real one to make the email appear that it’s coming from a trusted source. Don’t click on the link. Instead, rest your mouse over the link without clicking on it to see if the link address matches the address typed into the email.
- Generic greetings, like “Dear taxpayer” or “Dear customer” Scammers rarely have your name, only your email address.
- Misspelled words and bad grammar are also a red flag that the email is a phishing scam.
If you get a ‘phishing’ or scam email, here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Don’t reply to the message.
- Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
- Don’t open any attachments or click on any links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer with viruses or keystroke loggers that record what you type. For legitimate information, go directly to the website of the organization the email says it’s from instead. Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then delete it.
Watch out for fake & threatening phone calls
Criminals will call you to try to steal your money or identity, like your Social Security Number, birth date, bank account numbers, or credit card information. Watch out for:
- Uninvited calls - Some scammers will call you pretending to be IRS officials and demand that you pay a fake tax bill. They'll try to get you to send them cash, usually through a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. They may say to not hang up while you get the money, or leave “urgent” callback requests through pre-recorded phone messages or via an email.
- Threatening calls - Many phone scams scare or make threats to get you to pay them money. They may threaten to arrest, deport, or revoke your license if they don’t get the money. Real banks and financial institutions, tax preparers, and government agencies will never do this.
- Caller ID spoofing - Scammers will change their caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The caller may use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use your name, address, and other personal information to make the call sound official.
If you get a threatening phone call demanding payment over the phone or in a certain way, like through a debit card:
- Don’t give out your personal or financial information
- Hang up immediately
- Don’t send any money by mail or online. Instead, contact the organization the caller says they’re from to check if it’s real. (Use the contact information you have, not the information the caller provided.) The IRS, a tax company, or state collections agency will verify if they actually called you and the reason for calling.
When to report suspected fraud
The IRS doesn't:
- Call you if you owe taxes, without first sending you a bill in the mail.
- Send emails, text messages, or posts in social media channels to request personal or financial information.
- Require that you pay your taxes a certain way, like with a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
- Call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests for not paying.
Take action if someone:
- Calls to demand immediate payment.
- Demands you pay taxes and doesn’t let you question or appeal the amount you owe.
- Requires you to pay your taxes a certain way, like with a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
- Makes an uninvited phone call to you and asks for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threatens to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
How to report suspected fraud
If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think you do:
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" online form or call 1-800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. You'll answer a few questions online to file your report.
- Contact your local police department if someone tries to use your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases. Visit ftc.gov/idtheft to learn more about identity theft.
If you owe taxes, or think you might:
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.
IRS.gov resources on tax scams