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Watch out for these tax scams and learn how to stop them

Tax season also means scam season. While you’re pulling together everything you need to file, you also have to be on the watch for scams. Every year, thousands of people have lost personal data and millions of dollars to tax-related scams or “phishing.”

New variations of tax scams appear every year, so it’s important to be alert and follow tax scam tips provided directly by the IRS.

What is a tax scam?

IRS scams are typically phone calls or emails that claim to come from the IRS. Fraudsters use fake refunds, threats of a tax bill, or audits to pressure victims as a lure to give up personal and financial information. Phishing scammers use this personal data to steal the victim’s money or identity.

Telltale signs of a scam

First, it’s critical to know what the IRS would not do if they contacted you. The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call you without mailing an official notice first.
  • Demand that you immediately pay your taxes over the phone.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Claim to be able to suspend or cancel your Social Security Number.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds.

Tax scam tips

If a phishing scammer contacts you, the IRS offers the following tips to keep you safe:

  • Fraudsters may know a lot about you when they call and may be able to spoof your caller ID to show that they are calling from an official number. Don’t be fooled.
  • If you don’t answer the phone, they may leave an urgent callback request. Call the IRS hotline at 800.829.1040. Do not call the number left in the message.
  • If you receive a call that you think might be from the IRS, take down the agent’s information and call them back using the official IRS phone: 800.829.1040.

Scams to watch out for this year

The IRS reports common scams on their website, so check the Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts page for the most up-to-date information.

For any questions about owing money to the IRS, contact a qualified tax expert or call the IRS directly using their official hotline:

IRS Hotline
800.829.1040

If you believe that you (or someone you know) have been the recipient of tax-related phishing or phone scams, you’re encouraged to report the incident to the IRS. Learn more.

Additional information about fraud and identity theft is also available from the Federal Trade Commission.

Want to learn more about catching phone and internet scams? Check out our tips from the Bank Midwest blog.


If you receive a questionable call and are unsure what to do, please reach out to us.

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