“Hello, Mr. Brown? This is Maria Santos from the IRS,” barked the authoritative voice on the phone. “It’s important that I speak with you about your 2018 income tax return right now. I need some personal information from you.”
Should this ever happen?
In short, no.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won’t initiate contact with you via telephone. Nor do they reach out to taxpayers via emails, text messages or social media channels, especially to request your personal or financial information.
How will the IRS contact you?
If the IRS needs to communicate with you, they will send you a letter or notice via postal mail or fax.
What if you receive a phone call?
If you receive a phone call that you believe is an IRS agent, ask them to provide their full name, badge number and phone number.
Then, hang up and call the IRS’ toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040. Describe the interaction and give them the date, time, time zone and geographic location where you were when you received the suspicious call.
If the IRS tells you it was a real IRS employee or agent who contacted you, return their phone call.
If the IRS tells you it was not one of their employees or agents, you may report the incident or file a complaint in several ways:
- Complete a complaint form at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) website.
- Send an email to the IRS at email@example.com. In the subject line, put “IRS Phone Scam.”
- Lodge an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) using their form.
- File an online phone complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at their Consumer Complaint Center. Complete the required form fields and provide details of the call in the complaint description.
- Notify your state’s Attorney General’s office via their consumer complaint department.
What if you receive a suspicious email?
Scammers often try to use email as a phishing ploy by pretending to be an IRS employee. They set up email addresses and websites to try to convince you to reveal confidential information.
You can spot these phony communications if they request your personal details, such as your Social Security Number or bank account information.
The email might also mention taxes you owe in connection with a scam, such as a large investment, inheritance or lottery winnings.
If you receive a suspicious email:
- Don’t reply to it.
- Don’t open any attachments.
- Don’t click on any links included in the email.
- Forward the email directly to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Delete the email.
If you accidentally clicked on any links or entered personal information, go to the IRS’ identity protection page.
What if you receive a text?
If you receive an unsolicited text from the IRS, follow these steps:
- Don’t reply.
- Don’t open any attachments or click on links.
- Forward the text to the IRS at 202-552-1226.
- In a separate text, send the fraudulent number to the IRS at 202-552-1226.
- Delete the original text.
What if you receive a letter or fax?
Just because you receive a letter or notice that looks authentic, it doesn’t mean it’s legitimate correspondence from the IRS.
Before you respond to any instructions in that letter, you need to verify whether the IRS sent it.
A bona fide notice will have an official form or letter number that you can look up on the IRS website via the Notices and Letters Search. If you don’t find that number, call the IRS’ toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040 and tell them about the notice you received.
The bottom line
Although an IRS communication, such as a call, might be unexpected, stay calm and keep your personal and financial information to yourself. Let the IRS know about impersonations so you can help them catch the phonies and save other innocent taxpayers from potential financial ruin.