How to Spot IRS Phonies

How to Spot IRS Phonies

By Jack Belo, Associate

Tax season has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can stop worrying about scammers trying to cheat you out of your hard-earned money. Imposters will often pretend to be IRS agents, asking you to send them payments you do not actually owe. Over the past four years, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received notice of almost 900,000 people being contacted by IRS fraudsters. In addition, there have been more than 5,000 people victimized and more than 26 million dollars paid out as a result of these scams (see IRS article here). To be prepared for this, it is important to know what the IRS does and does not do in order to distinguish an imposter from a real IRS agent.

First, and perhaps most importantly, the IRS will not call you to request immediate payment. The IRS always sends a bill for taxes due before contacting you via telephone. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, be sure to pay attention to their tone. This can be the easiest sign to spot a phony phone call, because if it is the IRS, they will not be making any threats while trying to secure payments. If you are unsure about why you’re getting a call from the “IRS” and why they are demanding payment, you should hang up and report the encounter to the TIGTA website or the Federal Trade Commission.

Another common way to identify a phony IRS call is by the way they are asking for payment. If they are asking for any form of payment over the phone, they are an imposter. The IRS will never require a specific method of payment for paying taxes, nor will they ask for your credit card information over the phone.

Here is a quick summary:

What the IRS Does Do What the IRS Does Not Do
Send a bill in the mail before calling you Call you to request immediate payment
Make threats
Ask for a specific form of payment
Ask for your credit card information


You can never be too careful when it comes to giving out your personal information. It is always best to err on the side of caution when confronted with a potential IRS scammer. Don’t let them threaten or bully you into paying them any amount. Any questions or uncertainty you have about taxes and penalties you owe should be taken up with the IRS by calling them or, first, your accountant.