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Don’t Fall for These Tax Scams

Tax scammers target unsuspecting victims in a number of ways. Have you ever answered a call from an unfamiliar number and listened to someone demand back taxes you owe in an aggressive manner? Maybe they demanded that you make the payment in full or else a warrant would be issued for your arrest. Here are some common tax scams to be aware of and avoid.

Fake IRS Agents

Fake IRS agents are contacting taxpayers by mail or phone explaining that tax refunds were erroneously deposited into their bank account and they want the money back. They insist on something like a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. To drive home the seriousness of their demands, they will generally threaten to have the taxpayer arrested, deported, foreclosed on or have their driver’s license revoked if they don’t comply. Don’t fall for this scheme. You can call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to verify and explain the situation. (For related reading, see: Know the Latest IRS Scams.)

The real IRS has specific rules for returning erroneous refunds. If you were indeed sent a refund check erroneously, you can write "void" on the check and return it directly to the IRS, making sure you maintain a copy for your records. If funds were wired to your account in error, you can have the wire reversed. Call your accountant and discuss the best way to proceed. Remember, the IRS always gives you time to comply. They will never ask you to respond immediately.

Fraudulent Emails

The IRS generally does not communicate by email. If you have an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, you should report this scam to the IRS by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov.

Fake Charities

The IRS warns that “fake” charities attempt to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. Scammers looking to take advantage of familiarity will create a name that is similar to a legitimate charity. If you receive a donation request from a charity, ask for the charity’s employer identification number and verify their authenticity with the IRS' Exempt Organizations Select Check. They may also be looking to steal your identity. Don’t give out any personal financial information, including Social Security numbers or passwords, and never send cash.

Reporting Telephone Scams

With today’s powerful information technology available at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection, scammers and con artists have adapted to using creative ways to target unsuspecting victims. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

If you think you've been the target of a scammer, telephone scams can be reported to Treasury inspectors at 1-800-366-4484 and a complaint can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission's Complaint Assistant by indicating “IRS telephone scam.” (For more, see Tax Scams: The IRS Doesn’t Make Phone Calls.)