Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
IRS Multimedia on Tax Scams
Most Recent Scams
Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
A new email scam targeting taxpayers has emerged. According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), taxpayers are receiving emails that appear to be from TAP about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, where unsolicited emails which seem to come from legitimate organizations — but are really from scammers — try to trick unsuspecting victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in them. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, please forward it to email@example.com and note that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information.
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security and PIN numbers or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.
Scammers Change Tactics
Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.
The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
For more information, see IR-2016-40, Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again
W-2 Scam Targeting Payroll and Human Resources Professionals
Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including SSNs.
For more details, see: IR-2016-34, IRS Alerts Payroll and HR Professionals to Phishing Scheme Involving W-2s
E-mail, Phishing and Malware Schemes
The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents so far in the 2016 tax season.
The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people's computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
- IR-2016-28, Consumers Warned of New Surge in IRS E-mail Schemes during 2016 Tax Season; Tax Industry Also Targeted
- IR-2016-15, Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Note that the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
For more details on this ongoing scam, see:
- Tax Tip 2016-19, Scam Calls and Emails Using IRS as Bait Persist
- IR-2016-14, Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season
- Special Edition Tax Tip 2015-18, IRS Urges Public to Stay Alert for Scam Phone Calls
- Summertime Tax Tip 2015-18, Don’t Fall for New Tax Scam Tricks by IRS Posers
- IR-2015-99, IRS Warns Taxpayers to Guard Against New Tricks by Scam Artists; Losses Top $20 Million
- IR-2015-26, IRS Completes the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2015
- Tax Tip 2015-20, Stay Vigilant Against Bogus IRS Phone Calls and Emails
- IR-2015-05, Phone Scams Continue to be Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2015 Filing Season
- IR-2014-105, Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Unveils New Video to Warn Taxpayers
- Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-18, Five Easy Ways to Spot a Scam Phone Call
- IR-2014-84, Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls
- IR-2014-81, IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams
- Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-17, IRS Updates Phone Scams Warning
- IR-2014-53, IRS Reiterates Warning of Pervasive Telephone Scam
- IR-2014-16, IRS Releases the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014; Identity Theft, Phone Scams Lead List
- Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-10, IRS Renews Phone Scam Warning
- Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-13, IRS Warns of Phone Scam
- IR-2013-84, IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam
Tax Preparer Phishing Scam
A bogus email asks tax professionals to update their IRS e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs). The links that are provided in the bogus email to access IRS e-services appear to be a phishing scheme designed to capture your username and password. This email was not generated by the IRS e-services program. Disregard this email and do not click on the links provided.
For more information on this scam, see IR-2015-31, IRS Warns Tax Preparers to Watch out for New Phishing Scam; Don’t Click on Strange Emails or Links Seeking Updated Information.
Email Phishing Scam: "Update your IRS e-file"
The IRS has been alerted to a new email phishing scam. The emails appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.
Taxpayers who get these messages should not respond to the email or click on the links. Instead, they should forward the scam emails to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing web page.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
Don't fall victim to tax scams. Remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Some of the other recent scams the IRS has seen include:
- IR-2015-114, IRS Warns Consumers of Possible Scams Relating to South Carolina Flood Victim Relief
- IR-2014-39, IRS Warns of New Email Phishing Scheme Falsely Claiming to be from the Taxpayer Advocate Service
- IR-2014-16, IRS Releases the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014; Identity Theft, Phone Scams Lead List
- IR-2014-5, Watch Out for Tax Scams as Filing Season Opening Nears
- IR-2013-90, IRS Warns Consumers of Possible Scams Relating to Relief of Typhoon Victims
- IR-2013-33, Don’t Fall Prey to the 2013 Dirty Dozen Tax Scams
- IR-2012-23, IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012
- IR-2011-73, IRS Urges Taxpayers to Avoid Becoming Victims of Tax Scams
- IR-2011-39, Don’t Fall Prey to the 2011 Dirty Dozen Tax Scams
Education is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of these “too good to be true” tax scams. For more information, see:
No matter how some things are sliced, they're still baloney. If someone tells you that you don't have to pay taxes, check out The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments. This IRS.gov exclusive addresses some of the more common false legal arguments made by those opposed to compliance with the federal tax laws. Each contention is briefly explained, followed by a discussion of the legal authority that rejects the contention. The second section deals with frivolous arguments encountered in collection due process cases. The final section illustrates penalties imposed on those pursuing frivolous cases.
- IR-2014-51, IRS Debunks Frivolous Tax Arguments, includes numerous recently decided cases that demonstrate that the courts continue to regard such arguments as illegitimate.
- IR-2011-23, IRS Debunks Frivolous Tax Arguments, highlights the issue and possible penalties.
- IR-2004-41 describes the increasingly strong penalties the courts have imposed from March 2003 to March 2004 on taxpayers who pursued frivolous cases to delay IRS collection actions.
- IR-2003-28 details penalties the Tax Court imposed from April 2001 until early March 2003 for making frivolous Collection Due Process arguments.
Identity Theft Scams
The IRS has issued several consumer warnings about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scamsters trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. Scamsters will use the regular mail, telephone, fax or email to set up their victims. When identity theft takes place over the Internet (email), it is called phishing.
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email. Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from an IRS-related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at email@example.com.
Additionally, clicking on attachments to or links within an unsolicited email claiming to come from the IRS may download a malicious computer virus onto your computer.
Learn more about identity theft.
Learn how to protect your personal information.
You may also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
Reporting Tax-Related Schemes, Scams, Identity Theft and Fraud
To report the various types of tax-related illegal activities, refer to our chart explaining the types of activity and the appropriate forms or other methods to use.