Unsolicited emails, calls, texts, or direct messages (DM) that prompt you to share valuable personal and financial information are very likely scams - even when they look like they come from the IRS. You need to be aware of possible scams because once they get your personal data, online thieves can swindle funds and commit identity theft.
What do real IRS communications look like?
The biggest red flag of an IRS scam is when you get a phone call or message from a supposed-IRS representative without receiving any mail from the agency. Contact from the IRS is initiated via the United States Postal Service. The IRS might call after it has sent you physical mail first, especially if you haven’t responded to multiple letters. An IRS agent might also visit you in person.
The IRS will not email, text, or DM you. They won’t try to friend you on Facebook or add you on Instagram. This is true for most government agencies in the U.S.
Criminals impersonating federal employees can be very convincing by using fake names, presenting fake credentials, or spoofing telephone numbers. A real IRS agent WILL NEVER demand you make an immediate payment to a source other than the U.S. Treasury. If you are unsure if the caller is legitimate, hang up, look up the direct number for the agency online, and call that source to verify.
More red flags
Requests for data: Be extremely suspicious of any communications that ask you to provide personal information such as bank account information, Social Security numbers, login credentials, or mailing addresses. Cybercriminals will often impersonate the IRS in phishing campaigns.
Urgency: Scammers use an abnormal sense of urgency and other scare tactics to obtain information. Their goal is to make you panic and stop thinking clearly.
Attachments: Watch out for any message that includes an attachment, such as a PDF. Never open attachments from a suspicious or unknown email address. It may download malware or viruses onto your device.
Phishing as tax preparers: Along with the IRS, scammers will also imitate popular tax programs like TurboTax and H&R Block to try to snag your financial information. These companies will never contact you through phone, email, or text asking for your login information, or for you to give them an MFA code that you didn’t request.
If you think you are the victim of a tax scam, report it right away. The sooner you report the incident, even if you aren’t totally sure, the better your chances of recovering your cash.