IRS Imposter Phone Scam

I've been contacted multiple times in the past few months by individuals who have received calls from someone purporting to be with the IRS and demanding immediate payment of an outstanding tax liability. Such phone calls are scams, and have been occurring for years. Based on my recent experience and information published by U.S. government agencies, I'm offering the following ways to recognize these phone scams:

  • The caller says they are from the IRS or Treasury Department and demands payment of a tax bill over the phone immediately. 
  • The caller demands payment via a prepaid debit card, a money order, or a wire transfer.
    • The IRS will never call and ask for credit card numbers or bank information over the phone. The IRS does not need this information; any taxpayer can initiate a payment to the IRS for any federal tax at any time using the EFTPS System.
  • The caller threatens those who don't pay with criminal charges, a grand jury indictment, immediate arrest, deportation, or loss of a passport or driver’s license.
    • The IRS will never take or threaten to take any of these actions if payment is not made during the course of a phone call. Certainly, criminal penalties are possible in certain circumstances, but not before due process. As IRS Commissioner John Koskinen put it, "If you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us."
The IRS will always send notices and bills in the mail and follow their standard collection and appeals process, which I described in a previous post. If you do receive a call from an individual claiming to be with the IRS and demanding money immediately, hang up the phone. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has an online form that can be filled out to report the scam.