IRS Identifies Five Ways to Spot Scam Phone Calls

Post Date: 9/8/14
Last Updated: 9/8/14


Cross References
- IR-2014-84, August 28, 2014

The IRS has issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say the taxpayer has a refund due and try to trick the person into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about the taxpayer, 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 taxpayer does not 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. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
1) Call a taxpayer about taxes owed without first mailing an official notice.
2) Demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving him or her the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say is owed.
3) Require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for the payment of taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4) Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
5) Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

If a taxpayer gets a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what he or she should do:
- If the taxpayer knows he or she owes taxes, or thinks he or she might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help with a payment issue.
- If the taxpayer knows he or she does not owe taxes, or has no reason to believe that he or she does, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at
- If a taxpayer has been targeted by a scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of the complaint.

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