How to Spot IRS Impersonators


How to Spot IRS Impersonators

How to Spot IRS Impersonators

Tax season is almost upon us, and with it brings many opportunities for scammers to steal personal information or funds from unsuspecting taxpayers. IRS impersonators can wreak havoc on communities across the United States and rely on persistent methods to get what they want. Keep reading for more information on this specific subset of scammers.


Imposter scams were the most common type of fraud in 2018 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and will increase in the months leading up to tax season. Often, the scam begins with robocall combing. Robocalls allow scammers to weed out potential victims from those unlikely to respond to their scam. From there, many scammers will contact their victims as the IRS via phone or email. Scammers use the IRS’s name, and even go so far as to mimic their logo, employee names, and badges to make victims believe they are official employees.

Their goals are simple: to either extort personal information they can use to steal your identity or to extort money. Sometimes IRS impersonators will say you owe money and demand immediate payment; other times they will say you are due a refund and ask for bank information. Neither is something the real IRS will do!


The IRS will only initiate contact for specific reasons and must follow clear guidelines during these communications. The three reasons the IRS will initiate contact are because a taxpayer is overdue, the need to secure a delinquent return or employment tax payment, or as part of an audit or criminal investigation. However, the IRS will contact the taxpayer almost exclusively by mail, or, in escalated cases, they will call or come to a home or business. They will never threaten arrest or legal action if you refuse to pay immediately. The best practice is to hang up and call the number on the official website to verify any money owed.

Sometimes the IRS can assign your case to a private debt collection agency; however, they will identify themselves and ask for payments made to the United States Treasury. Private debt collection agencies working on behalf of the IRS will not demand payment by gift card or prepaid debit and will never threaten to take enforcement action.


  • Demand a specific payment method
  • Demand immediate payment (you will receive a bill in the mail first)
  • Demand payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed
  • Ask for credit or debit cards over the phone
  • Threaten to bring authorities to arrest you
  • Threaten legal action
  • Use email

A note on email phishing: To repeat, the IRS NEVER uses email to initiate contact. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be the IRS, never click on the links, never provide personal information, never reply to the email, and forward the email to [email protected].

If you or a loved one are contacted by someone you believe is an IRS impersonator, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and report the incident to the FTC at


Avoid scams: Know the facts on how the IRS contacts taxpayers | Internal Revenue Service

Don’t Fall for Scam Calls and Emails Impersonating IRS | Internal Revenue Service

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