With so many people relying on the internet to obtain or provide personal and financial information, it’s often a “guess” for individuals trying to determine what emails that are received are real and which may be phishing scams.

For IRS tax issues and correspondences, the first step in notification from the IRS will be a letter in the mail. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.

To help taxpayers be on the alert for phishing scams, the IRS has published on their website information to clarify that the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Additional IRS efforts to protect taxpayers:

  • IRS recently announced that revenue officers will not visit taxpayers unannounced (except for limited situations such as summonses and subpoenas).  Taxpayers’ initial contact from IRS revenue officers will be via an appointment letter, known as a 725-B letter. For security reasons, when taxpayers are visited by an IRS revenue officer, two forms of ID should be provided by the IRS agent:
      • An IRS-issued credential noted as “a pocket commission.”
      • An HSPD-12 card, a form of ID for federal employees.
  • The IRS lists on their website the “Dirty Dozen” which represent “the worst of the worst tax scams” according to the IRS website. Compiled annually, the Dirty Dozen lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or hire someone to help with their taxes. Don’t fall prey.
  • Recently, the IRS warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for the most current IRS related mail scam. This fraud scheme involves the fraud artist sending fake mail to taxpayers and stating “in relation to your unclaimed refund”.  The fraudulent letter asks for taxpayers to provide sensitive personal information that can lead to ID theft.
  • The IRS’s website is also an excellent resource and security tool for taxpayers.  Visit the FAQ’s page that summarizes Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts.

Unfortunately, such scams have become too prevalent in our digital society. Taxpayers need to be on high alert to avoid these ongoing threats seeking personal and private information.