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How to Spot and Report an IRS Scam

How to Spot and Report an IRS Scam

How to Spot and Report an IRS Scam

IRS Scams, Affordable Tax PrepDuring this time of the year there is a dramatic increase in the number of people who are scammed by individuals impersonating the IRS. In order to protect yourself from these criminals you will need to learn how to spot and report an IRS scam.

Start by educating yourself on how the IRS operates so you are working from a position of confidence.

  • As a general rule, the IRS will initiate contact via regular mail if you owe the government money.
  • Employees of the Federal Government will never make phone calls threatening lawsuits or arrest if full payment is not made immediately.
  • Rules and regulations prohibit IRS employees calling and asking for personal information such as credit/debit card account numbers. Requests for payment using specific payment methods like wire transfers or prepaid debit cards are also prohibited by the IRS.

Collection Agencies Authorized by the IRS

The IRS has 4 collection agencies they have engaged to help them collect unpaid taxes. You will always receive multiple notifications from the IRS before your account is transferred to one of these private agencies. In addition, the agency handling your account is required to notify you by mail that they have assumed your account prior to contacting you by phone.

The four private firms authorized by the IRS are:

  • Performant – Livermore, CA
  • CBE Group – Cedar Falls, IA
  • Conserve – Fairport, NY
  • Pioneer – Horseheads, NY

How Scams are Committed

Criminals are always coming up with new ways to commit fraud, but there are a few common methods that scammers use when impersonating the IRS. They will use telephone, email, regular mail, in person visits or a combination. If you are proactive you can protect yourself from these crooks.

Telephone Call

You may receive a phone call from someone saying they are from the IRS or a collection agency acting on behalf of the IRS. The person calling you may demand full payment or offer a discount if you make a payment today. Remember, 99% of the time the IRS will initiate contact with you via regular mail. And be aware that there are spoofing services that let these criminals change their caller ID to say IRS so you can’t trust the caller ID.

Do not divulge any personal information to the caller. Get their name and telephone number, hang up and contact the US Treasury Department to verify the legitimacy of the call.


The IRS will never email you about a balance due, so if you receive any email claiming to be from the IRS you need to keep your guard up. These emails can look official and have a toll free # for you to call. The number usually routes to a call center overseas and is a total fraud, so don’t fall for the bait.

Do not reply or click any links in the message. Instead, report the email to the IRS right away so they can protect other citizens who could be ripped off. A simple internet search for ‘IRS report email’ will return the necessary contact information.

Regular Mail

Scammers are now using very sophisticated equipment to produce counterfeit IRS documents that appear to be completely legitimate. When paying a tax bill, the only legitimate payee is the “United States Treasury”; no other firms or 3rd parties. If an IRS notice directs you to make a payment to any entity other than the US Treasury, red flags should go up. Contact the IRS before making any payment.

In Person

Be very wary of individuals who knock on your door and claim to be representatives from the IRS. Rarely, if ever, will the IRS show up at your house without ample forewarning. Even if they have what appears to be legitimate credentials, do not let them enter your house. Ask them to wait outside while you contact your local police. This approach may sound a bit drastic but if the individual(s) is really from the IRS they will have no issues waiting for someone from law enforcement.

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