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News | Feb. 12, 2016

Beware of criminals impersonating IRS, Treasury employees in email, phone calls

By Donald Bartlett, DLA Installation Support

The IRS has reported that criminals are using telephone and email scams to pose as IRS employees and solicit money from taxpayers. The IRS inspector general reported that email and telephone scams are the largest of their kind the IRS has ever seen. The IRS warns that criminals using these tactics are extremely aggressive and relentless in trying to scam taxpayers into believing they owe back taxes and must remit payment immediately to avoid prosecution.

Recent hacking incidents against the U.S. government have given criminals access to government employee information, including Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, employee identification numbers, and other sensitive information. The latest occurrences have exposed government employees to various scams, as well as the malicious publication of identifying information. Stolen information has also enabled criminals to trick government employees into breaking normal security procedures or divulging confidential information. 

If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language, that is a sign it is not the IRS calling. You should hang the phone up immediately and not engage with the caller. 

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released videos that warn the public about the scams:

In addition, TIGTA is working with its partners in the public and private sector to warn the public of these scams, through traditional law enforcement channels and through outreach to associations, non-governmental organizations and the media.

The IRS has indicated email and phone scams have already victimized taxpayers in every state. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card, money order or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with criminal violations, grand jury indictments, immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license. 

Taxpayers need to know: 

  • The IRS generally first contacts people by mail, not by phone, about unpaid taxes.
  • The IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order or wire a transfer.
  • The IRS will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.
  • The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text message or any social media.

The criminal callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use an automated robo-call machine
  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers
  • May know the last four digits of the victim’s social security number
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling
  • Aggressively demand immediate payment to avoid being criminally charged or arrested
  • Claim that hanging up the telephone will cause the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam
  • Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and asking for a payment, here is what you should do:
  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on TIGTA’s website at, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Add “IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.
  • You should forward scam e-mails to Do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.
  • Contact local law enforcement to report the incident.

More information is available at: Read more about tax scams at