Many people have either received, or know someone who has received, a phone call or an e-mail from someone claiming to be the “IRS” threatening the recipient with all kind of horrifying consequences if he or she doesn’t immediately send money to the IRS to satisfy an outstanding tax debt purportedly owed or provide the requestor with certain personal information. The threats range from the seizure of bank accounts or property to the police showing up at the recipient’s door waving handcuffs.
While these contacts often sound official (and ominous) and can be unnerving, the persons who engage in these activities are con-artists and they are attempting to scam the recipient.
If a taxpayer owes the IRS money, the first contact initiated by the IRS to inform the taxpayer that he or she owes money will be by letter. And if it’s a REALLY serious matter, the letter will be sent by the IRS via certified mail. The IRS NEVER contacts taxpayers by e-mail and only rarely by phone.
If someone receives an e-mail purportedly from the IRS asking for money or any personal information (such as the person’s address, Social Security Number, or bank account information), the recipient should ignore the e-mail and simply delete it. The recipient should NOT click on any links that may appear in the e-mail. If desired, the recipient can forward the e-mail to the IRS at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: “IRS E-Mail Scam”). The IRS has indicated that it will investigate these illegal contacts.
If someone receives a call purportedly from an IRS employee asking for money or any personal information, the recipient should request the caller’s name, his or her IRS badge number, and his or her call back number. If the caller refuses to provide this information the recipient should hang up. If the caller provides this information, the recipient should inform the caller that the recipient will call him or her back after confirming the caller’s identity with the IRS. The recipient can call 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is actually an IRS employee. This phone number has been set up by the IRS to assist taxpayers with scams involving the IRS. If the recipient confirms that the caller is, in fact, an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact the recipient, the recipient can then call him or her back. If the caller is not an IRS employee, the recipient can report the incident to the IRS at email@example.com (Subject: “IRS Phone Scam”).
The bottom line is that everyone needs to be extremely cautious about disclosing any personal information, whether electronically or by phone, unless it can be confirmed that the person who is requesting the information is legitimate and authorized to collect it.