IRS Phishing Scams and How To Avoid Them

William Miller |

With tax season well underway, tax scams are likely to become more prevalent. Phishing scams are commonly used by criminals. One of their tactics is to impersonate the IRS or other federal agencies in order to steal your money or identity. These messages may contain alarming language that pressures you into sharing your information.

If you are not sure if a message you have received is legitimate or fraud, here are some red flags to watch out for.

Asks for Personal or Financial Information

The IRS will never initiate contact with you via email, text, or social media asking for personal or financial information. If they do initiate contact, it will be by mail  (U.S. Postal Service) or via phone. There are some circumstances where the IRS will call or come to your home or business, but generally, you will receive several notices in the mail first.

If you receive a phone call or email asking for your information, do not respond. Scammers may attempt to use your identity to file a tax return in your name or cause other financial hardships. Instead, check the IRS website to learn the best way to report the message.

Attempts to Look “Legitimate”

Fraudulent emails will go to great lengths to appear like the real thing. They may use a federal agency’s logos, watermarks, and style in the emails in order to look like official emails. If you receive a suspicious email, do not click any links or open any attachments. The same applies to text and social media messages. If you do click on any links or attachments it may allow the scammer to install spyware, ransomware or viruses.

Phone scammers can mask their caller ID to look like an IRS office or other federal agency. The caller may also provide a fake badge number to seem more legitimate. If this happens, take a note of the badge number so you can add it to your report.

Creates a Sense of Urgency

Phone scammers usually leave pre-recorded voicemails that ask you to call back immediately. These messages often contain threats to bring in law enforcement if you don’t respond. Scammers may also pressure you to pay over the phone and ask for credit or debit card numbers, gift cards, or wire transfers.

The IRS will never ask for payment over the phone. Generally, they will send you a bill in the mail. Also, as part of your rights as a taxpayer, the IRS allows you to question or appeal your owed amounts.

Have you received a suspicious message claiming to be the IRS? Here’s what to do:

  • If it’s a phone call, hang up and do not give them your personal information
  • If it’s an email or text, do not reply to the message. Do not open any links or attachments
  • Make a note of the date and time you received the message
  • Report the message to the IRS:

How They Want To Collect

Many of the phishing scams will ask you for a specific amount of money that is paid via pre-paid debit card, gift card, pay pal or wire transfer. None of these options are ever used by the IRS. The IRS has their own payment system for you to make you payment directly on their website. The scammers will also put pressure on you to make the payment at that time, this is not the case with the IRS. When you have to make a payment to the IRS you will always be offered the ability to appeal.


To learn more about different phishing schemes, visit the IRS website


*This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information provided is not written or intended as tax, legal, or investment advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their accountant, financial planner, and counsel. Neither the information presented, nor any opinion expressed constitutes a representation by WM Wealth Planning as a specific recommendation to the purchase or sale of any securities/investment. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. This material was developed and produced by WM Wealth Planning for educational purposes*