IRS Related Scams

The Coop IRS Scams warningAs we approach the end of the year and “Tax Season”, it’s a good time for a reminder about all the different types of IRS related scams there are.  These scams can come in many forms, so it’s very important to know how to recognize them.


It is helpful to understand that the IRS does not send unsolicited emails to the general public, nor would they email sensitive documents (like tax returns or transcripts).  If you get an email from the IRS with suspicious attachments, it’s probably a phishing email.  Also, the IRS does not typically use the telephone as a first means of contact.


The most recent IRS related scam is an email with a “Tax Transcript” attachment.  The email impersonates the IRS and entices unsuspecting victims to open the attachment, which in reality is malware.


The following is information taken directly from the IRS website


Telephone scams

How the scam works:

Criminals pose as IRS employees and call victims, demanding immediate payment of a so-called tax debt. Payments are often requested via prepaid debit cards and/or money wires. The caller will ask to stay on the line or otherwise call repeatedly while the victim completes the transaction. The caller may use a condescending tone and will often threaten to file a lawsuit, call the police or involve federal law enforcement agencies if the victim doesn’t comply. The call may appear to come from emergency services and/or a local/federal law enforcement agency but the fraudsters are faking, or “spoofing” the caller ID to only appear to come from a legitimate agency.


What taxpayers should do:

Hang up the phone. Know that the IRS would never call to threaten or demand immediate tax payment. The agency offers taxpayers a chance to appeal any amount in question and offers numerous ways of resolving a tax liability.


Phishing emails

How the scam works:

Criminals send an email to your personal or business account(s) appearing to be from the IRS. The email usually features the IRS logo, uses agency language and asks taxpayers to provide sensitive information. It may also ask recipients to open an attachment or click on a link embedded within the email to supposedly give the taxpayer account access. In a more recent variation called “spear phishing,” the criminal, having done research on the victim ahead of time, will send an email posing as a trusted source. The email will make an urgent plea to click on a link and update an account immediately. The link will then direct the victim to what seems to be a trusted website but is in reality a phishing website controlled by the thief who can install malicious software.


What taxpayers should do:

Do not provide personal information, click on links or open attachments from emails pretending to be from the IRS. Know that the IRS does not initiate contact by email or social media channels. The agency gets in touch with taxpayers through paper letters mailed by the U.S. Postal Service. IRS letters and notices are mailed to the taxpayer’s most recent address on file. Forward the email as-is, preferably with the full email headers to Delete the original email.


Fake charity donation requests

How the scam works:

Criminals set up fake charities to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. The scammers prey on well-intentioned taxpayers, especially during times of distress, such as following a natural disaster. They solicit money either by phone, email or even in person. The scammers may even contact disaster victims and claim to be working on behalf of the IRS with the goal of gaining access to personal information under the pretext of filing a casualty loss claim.

What taxpayers should do:

Don’t give out personal or financial information such as Social Security numbers. Be wary of charities with names that resemble nationally-known charity organizations. The IRS has an online search tool called the Tax Exempt Organization Search which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to whom a donation may be tax deductible. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or another way that provides documentation of the gift. Taxpayers who want to report suspected tax fraud activity can do so by completing Form 3949-A, Information Referral.


For more information about tax scams, visit the  IRS website’s “scams and schemes” article  “scams and schemes” and be sure to check out the agency’s 2018 Dirty Dozen list.


To read more on how to identify scams and protect yourself see our security page and read our security articles.