avoiding irs imposter scams during tax season

Courtney Takabayashi
March 16, 2021

Anytime of the year, but especially during tax season, scammers may pretend to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents to trick you into telling them personal information or sending them money. Here’s what you need to know about who the scammers are, how they try to scam you, and what to do if you think you’re being scammed.

IRS imposter scams
Someone claiming to be the IRS will contact you by phone, postal mail, email, or text message, usually for one of two reasons:

  • Tax collection - They’ll typically tell you that you owe taxes and demand that you pay the amount immediately, usually with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. It’s not uncommon for these IRS imposters to threaten to have you arrested if you don’t pay.
  • Information verification - You’ll receive an email or text message with a hyperlink or button that you need to click on to verify personal information.

Dos and don’ts to avoid IRS imposter scams


  • Be wary of anyone claiming to be from the IRS. The real IRS will first try to contact you by mail before calling you about unpaid taxes.
  • Ask the caller to give you their name, badge number, and callback number. Then, verify this information by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 to find out if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate reason to contact you.
  • Familiarize yourself with what scam IRS email messages look like so you’re less likely to be fooled by phony messages.
  • Understand what your IRS notice or letter means using this resource from the IRS website.
  • Remember that the IRS won’t threaten to arrest you for not paying a bill.


  • Don't share personal details, bank information, or your Social Security number with an unverified IRS employee.
  • Don’t feel pressured to pay taxes immediately by wiring money or with a prepaid debit card.
  • Don’t trust someone who says they’re calling from the IRS just because their caller ID displays “IRS.” Scammers can change the name that shows on caller ID using a technique called spoofing.
  • Don’t click on any links in email or text messages to verify your information.

How to report IRS imposter scams
If you think that an IRS imposter has contacted you, contact TIGTA online, by phone at 1-800-366-4484 toll-free, or forward the suspicious email to phishing@irs.gov.

Even if you’re stressed out this tax season, try to stay calm if someone from the IRS contacts you. Be extra cautious and follow the dos and don’ts above. The more careful you are, the more likely you’ll avoid getting scammed by IRS imposters.

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