IRS identifies five ways to spot telephone scam artists

September 4, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say a refund is due and try to trick the consumer into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If the consumer doesn't answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do: Call about taxes owed without first mailing an official notice; demand payment of taxes without giving the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say is owed; require consumers to use a specific payment method for their taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the consumer arrested for not paying.

Consumers who get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money should do the following: Consumers who think they owe taxes should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. An IRS worker can help with the issue. Consumers who don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe they do should report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at

Those who have been targeted by this scam can also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use the FTC Complaint Assistant at Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of the complaint.

The IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss a personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to and type “scam” in the search box.

More information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube,