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The (fake) tax man cometh

Tax season is upon us. Yet while it will be weeks before taxpayers receive their tax forms, scammers are already shifting gears to what will likely be this season’s most popular scam—the fraudulent tax man.

The IRS began issuing warnings to taxpayers in October with this statement from IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

The first contact from the IRS will most likely be via mail, making it highly unlikely the IRS will make contact by phone to threaten action. It’s important to remember this key fact because it’s possible to spoof the IRS toll-free telephone number on Caller ID.

Scammers have developed a sophisticated system to fool potential victims. The possible characteristics of this scam include:

  • The caller may use a fake name and IRS badge number.
  • They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • The caller may have the last four digits of your Social Security Number.
  • You may receive fake IRS emails to support the caller’s claims.
  • The IRS reports that victims have heard background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

The IRS warning also recommends that anyone being targeted in this scam should call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. You can also report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission with their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

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