facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast phone blog search brokercheck brokercheck Play Pause

No, That Is Not the I.R.S. Calling

Do you know how the Internal Revenue Service contacts taxpayers to resolve a problem? The 

first step is almost always to send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service to the taxpayer.1

It is very rare for the I.R.S. to make the first contact through a call or a personal visit. This 

happens in two circumstances: when taxes are notably delinquent or overdue or when the 

agency feels an audit or criminal investigation is necessary. Furthermore, the I.R.S. does not 

send initial requests for taxpayer information via email or social media.1

Now that you know all of this, you should also know about some of the phone scams being 

perpetrated by criminals claiming to be the I.R.S. (or representatives of investment firms).

Scam #1: “You owe back taxes. Pay them immediately, or you will be arrested.” Here, 

someone  calls you posing as an I.R.S. agent, claiming that you owe thousands of dollars in 

federal taxes.  If the caller does not reach you in person, a voice mail message conveys the 

same threat, urging you to call back quickly.1

Can this terrible (fake) problem be solved? Yes, perhaps with the help of your Social Security 

number. Or, maybe with some specific information about your checking account, maybe even 

your online banking password. Or, they may tell you that this will all go away if you wire the 

money to an account or buy a pre-paid debit card. These are all efforts to steal your money.

This is over-the-phone extortion, plain and simple. The demand for immediate payment gives 

it  away. The I.R.S. does not call up taxpayers and threaten them with arrest if they cannot pay 

back taxes by midnight. The preferred method of notification is to send a bill, with instructions 

to pay the amount owed to the U.S. Treasury (never some third party).1

Sometimes the phone number on your caller I.D. may appear to be legitimate because more 

sophisticated crooks have found ways to manipulate caller I.D. systems. Asking for a callback 

number is not enough. The crook may readily supply you with a number to call, and when you 

dial it someone may pick up immediately and claim to be a representative of the I.R.S., but it’s 

likely a co-conspirator – someone else assisting in the scam. For reference, the I.R.S. tax help 

line for individuals is 1-800-829-1040. Another telltale sign; if you ever call the real I.R.S., you 

probably wouldn’t speak to a live person so quickly – hold times can be long.1

Scam #2: “This is a special offer to help seniors manage their investments.” Yes, a special 

offer  to become your investment advisor, made by a total stranger over the phone. Of course, 

this  offer of help is under the condition that you provide your user I.D. and password for your 

brokerage account or your IRA.2

No matter how polite and sweet the caller seems, this is criminal activity. Licensed financial

services industry professionals do not randomly call senior citizens and ask them for 

financial account information and passwords – unless they want to go to jail or end their 


Scam #3: “I made a terrible mistake; you must help me.” In this scam, a caller politely 

informs you that the U.S. government is issuing supplemental Social Security payments to 

seniors next year. Do you have a bank account? You could enroll in this program by providing 

your account information and your Social Security number.

Oh no, wait! The caller now tells you that they’ve made a huge mistake while inputting your

account information – and your account was accidentally credited with a full payment even

though you were not enrolled. The distraught caller will now attempt to convince you that they

will lose their job unless you send over an amount equal to the lump sum they claim was

mistakenly deposited. If you refuse, the caller may have a conversation with a “boss” who

demands that money be withdrawn from your account.

Scam #4: “The I.R.S. accidentally gave you a refund.” In this sophisticated double-cross, 

thieves steal your data, then file a phony federal tax return with your information and deposit a 

false refund in your bank account. Then, they attempt to convince you to pay them the money, 

claiming they are debt collectors working for the I.R.S. or I.R.S. agents.

Should anyone call and try to trap you with one of these scams, hang up. Next, report the

caller ID and/or callback number to the I.R.S. at phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “I.R.S.

Phone Scam.” You can also notify the Department of the Treasury (treasury.gov) and the

Federal Trade Commission (ftccomplaintassistant.gov); list “I.R.S. Telephone Scam” in the


Regarding scam #4, if you really do receive an erroneous federal (or state) tax refund,

you should notify your tax professional about it as soon as you can and arrange its return. You

may also need to close the involved bank account if you sense you have been victimized.1,3

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This

information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee

of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is

advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and

may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment

or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular




1 - irs.gov/newsroom/irs-continues-warning-on-impersonation-scams-reminds-people-to-remain-alert-to-other-scams-schemes-this-summer [5/31/18]

2 - money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/2018-05-09/10-financial-scams-to-avoid-in-retirement [5/9/18]

3 - forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/02/13/irs-issues-urgent-warning-on-new-tax-refund-scam-and-its-not-what-youd-expect [2/13/18]

Schedule a Meeting