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Is it Spam (Scam)? IRS Tax Scams Are Year-round Threats

What once was a seasonal phishing or phone call scam is now a year-round threat. Criminals are not only more aggressive with tax scam email or phone calls than ever, but they’ve contrived scams that claim victims before, during, and after what we traditionally consider tax preparation time in the US.

What is IRS Tax Scam?

IRS Tax Scam calls are impersonation scams that lure a target into speaking with a scammer who impersonates an IRS agent. The scammer often threatens a tax filer with legal action, arrest, deportation, or seizure of assets for delinquent taxes or fines.

Two forms of IRS tax scam phone calls dominate, and both use phone numbers assigned from Internet telephony servers. Robocalls are automated voice calls that leave you a voicemail message with a callback number or induce you to speak to an IRS agent. Boiler room calls are live callers (and you often hear other “agents” fielding calls in the background). Boiler room calls are usually aggressive and the caller will try to keep you on the phone. The goal of both forms is the same: the scammers try to convince you to pay a fine (IR-2016-14, Feb. 2, 2016) but they may try to obtain your personal information and identity, too. In credit card form of payment scams, the scammer may be actively purchasing products online using your credit card.

If you should receive a call that claims to be from the IRS, keep in mind that

  • Legitimate IRS agents will not demand immediate payments or insist that you pay by a certain payment method.
  • Legitimate IRS agents won’t threaten you or verbally abuse you.

Impersonation scams use all forms of correspondence that the IRS uses, so your best security “posture” is to control the conversation: call the 800-829-1040 hotline.You can check to determine whether correspondence you received was legitimately from the IRS.

If you receive a suspicious call:

  • If you have caller ID, save the number.
  • If you receive a robocall, save the callback number if given.
  • If you receive a boiler room call, don’t panic and do not disclose any information. Instead, ask the caller for a Federal badge number and a call back number.
  • End the phone call.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and ask for assistance regarding an IRS tax scam, or
  • Report to the IRS via email to with Subject: IRS Phone Scam. Include the caller ID and any callback number you are provided. If you can, provide a description of the conversation. Focus on the aspects of the call that are relevant to the scam.
  • If you believe you’ve been a victim and have disclosed personal identity information, visit to complete forms appropriate to the type of scam you are reporting, including Form 14039Identify Theft Affidavit or contact the IRS for help at 800-908-4490. You should definitely report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting page) as well.

Tax scammers use email, fax, phone or even the postal service, and the IRS Report Phishing page explains how to report scams for all these attack vectors.

Consider blocking the calling number to avoid receiving future calls from this number. The FTC’s Blocking Unwanted Calls describes several ways to block calls.

You can also visit or Call Control without fee or account to report a spam call or to check whether a phone number is listed as abusive. TrueCNAM (login required) or NoMoRobo offer blocking services for fee.

Sample report of extortion telephone number

IRS Tax Scams may become as ubiquitous and nuisance-full as the 419/Nigerian Advance fee scam. Your best defense against scams of these kinds?

Know the scam.
Recognize the scam.
Don’t provide any information.

Report the scam to help prevent others from falling victim.


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