IRS & SSN Scams Q&A
Question: What types of IRS scams should I be on the lookout for?
Answer: Calls or emails from the Social Security Administration or the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). These communications may mention overdue taxes, as well as threaten to cancel or suspend a person’s Social Security Number (SSN). The calls will usually be “robocalls” requesting a callback. Emails will contain the subject line “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax Return Reminder” and includes links to IRS-like websites with false information and “temporary” or “one-time” passwords.
Q: What types of things will scammers do to trick me?
A: Characteristics of an IRS scam could include one or more of the following:
- Scammer using fake name and IRS badge number to ID themselves;
- Scammer may know the last four of taxpayer’s SSN;
- Scammer spoofing caller ID to make phone number appear as if IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling;
- Scammer may send bogus IRS emails to support bogus calls;
- Victims hearing background noise of other calls to mimic a call site, and/or;
- After threatening victims with jail time or with driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up and others will soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or DMV with the caller ID again supporting these claims.
Q: How will I know if the call or email I received is a scam?
A: Generally, the IRS will not contact you via phone or email, so if you receive phone or email communications from “the IRS” then it is likely a scam. It is also important to know that the IRS will NEVER do the following:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method (credit card, wire transfer, iTunes or other gift cards, etc.);
- Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone;
- Ask taxpayer to make payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury;
- Demand that all taxes be paid without giving opportunity to question or appeal amount owed;
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police, immigration officers, or other law enforcement groups to have taxpayer arrested for not paying;
- The IRS also cannot revoke a license or immigration status.
Q: What should I do if I think I have been contacted by a scammer?
A: Report suspected scam activity on IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting website at: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml. You can also submit a scam report to IRS by email at email@example.com with the subject line “IRS Impersonation Scam.”
- Claim to be calling from Social Security Administration, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS – an independent organization within IRS), or IRS directly
- Claims to be able to suspend or cancel a victim’s SSN to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails
- May mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel or suspend SSN
- Should NOT give sensitive info over phone unless positive caller is legitimate—when in doubt hang up.
- IRS does not send unsolicited emails and never emails taxpayers about status of refunds
- Subject line indicators of scam:
- “Automatic Income Tax Reminder”
- “Electronic Tax Return Reminder”
- These emails contain:
- Links that show an IRS-like website with false information;
- “Temporary” or “one-time” passwords
- These emails utilize compromised websites that infect computers with malware, potentially allowing the imposter to gain access to and control of the taxpayer’s computer or secretly download software that tracks every keystroke—eventually giving them passwords to sensitive accounts, such as financial accounts
- Characteristics of IRS scams:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to ID themselves
- Scammers may know the last four of taxpayer’s SSN
- Scammers spoof caller ID to make phone number appear as if IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling
- Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to support bogus calls
- Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site
- After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or DMV, and caller ID again supports claim
- IRS and private collection agencies will NEVER:
- Call to demand immediate payment using specific payment method (credit card, wire transfer, iTunes or other gift cards, etc.)
- Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone
- Ask taxpayer to make payment to a person or organization other than US Treasury
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving opportunity to question or appeal amount owed
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police, immigration officers, or other law-enforcement groups to have taxpayer arrested for not paying; IRS also cannot revoke a license or immigration status.
- What should the Taxpayer do?:
- Taxpayers who don’t owe taxes and have no reason to think that they do should:
- Report call to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
- Report the caller ID and callback number to the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and write “IRS Phone Scam” in subject line
- Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission
- Taxpayers who owe tax or think they do should:
- View tax account information page online at IRS.gov to see actual amount owed and review payment options
- Call number on billing notice
- Call IRS at 800-829-1040
- Tax Preparation – “Ghost” Return Preparers:
- By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
- Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN
- What do “ghost” preparers do?
- “Ghost” preparers do not sign the return, rather they print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer
- Look to make easy money by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund
- Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt
- Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds
- Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account
- What should scammed Taxpayer do?
- Abusive tax preparers
- Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer
- Suspicion that preparer filed or changed their tax return without their consent
- File Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit