Defend Your Dollars and Data: How to Avoid IRS Impersonation Scams

What are some of the most common IRS impersonation scams circulating this tax season?

There’s more to tax season than just filing your taxes. And if you’re anything like me, I approach every new tax season with a sense of urgency. I assemble my W-2 form and other tax-related statements as soon as they’re available. While I encourage everyone to get a head start on their taxes, I also encourage everyone to be proactive about protecting themselves from potential IRS impersonation scams.

Here are some common schemes to avoid this tax season.

IRS Impersonation Telephone Scams

Otherwise known as “vishing,” some scammers will call you pretending they’re an IRS agent, FBI detective, law enforcement officer or something along those lines. They’ll change the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is actually initiating the call. They might provide you with a bogus IRS identification badge number and speak with a sense of urgency, leading you to believe you owe money to the IRS or that you’re due a refund.

The most important thing is to stay calm and ask for a reference number. If the caller provides you with one, jot it down and hang up. Verify the reference number with this list of official IRS phone numbers.

If you do happen to receive a call from the so-called IRS, report the callback number in an email to [email protected].

IRS Phishing Scams

Recently, the IRS issued alerts regarding the fraudulent use of the IRS name and logo in emails composed by scammers to access your financial information. If you receive an email from “the IRS,” don’t click on any links within the message. It’s also a best practice to check the “From” name. If you hover over or click on their name, it will reveal their actual email address. If it’s not a .gov address, it’s most definitely a scam!

Or if you have someone prepare your taxes for you, make sure to pick up the phone and call to verify that they’ve sent you an email before responding or clicking links within the message.

If you suspect you’ve received a fraudulent email, send the fake email as an attachment to [email protected]

IRS Smishing Scams

Watch out for scams via text message. Any way you digitally communicate, you should be on your guard for potential tax-related schemes. The IRS will never text you for any information. If you receive a suspicious text that claims you must update your IRS e-file immediately or that you’re owed a refund, don’t click any links, even if they look legitimate.

If you receive an unsolicited text message from the IRS, report it by taking a screenshot and including it in an email to [email protected] with the date, time and time zone of the text received and the sender’s phone number. 

Telltale Signs of IRS Scams

If you’re the potential target of a different type of IRS impersonation scam than the ones mentioned above, here are some tell-tale signs that should raise your red flags:

  • You are asked to pay through unofficial channels. The IRS will never ask you to pay via wire transfers, cryptocurrency or gift cards.
  • You are told your ID is at risk of revocation. The IRS has no control over your identification. Threats made against your forms of ID, such as your driver’s license or Social Security number, are fraudulent.
  • You are asked for details related to your credit cards or bank accounts. The IRS will never ask you for account-related information, but scammers will.

There are other ways to flag scammers, but as a general rule of thumb, stay vigilant and don’t let the stress of tax season overwhelm your good senses.

For more infomation on tax-related scams, please visit the IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts website. 

About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity

If you would like more information on ensuring the network security of your business, contact a member of the Schneider Downs Cybersecurity Services team.

The Schneider Downs cybersecurity practice consists of experts offering a comprehensive set of information technology security services, including penetration testing, intrusion prevention/detection review, ransomware security, vulnerability assessments and a robust digital forensics and incident response team. In addition, our Digital Forensics and Incident Response teams are available 24x7x365 at 1-800-993-8937 if you suspect or are experiencing a network incident of any kind. 

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To learn more, visit our dedicated Cybersecurity page. 

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Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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