How to Avoid an IRS Impostor Email Scam

Each year, the IRS releases their list of the top most common tax scams, known as the “Dirty Dozen”which includes schemes ranging from phone call scam to in-person fraud, and most common of all—IRS impostor email scams. These deceiving emails are also referred to as phishing scams. Phishing scams use email to pose as IRS representatives (or the agency itself) to obtain sensitive information about the victim of the scam. This information can include anything from Social Security details, to financial records, and even bank account numbers. Once the information is accessed, scammers may use it to tap into the victim’s bank accounts or even steal their identity.

It’s important to take measures to protect yourself from these kinds of IRS impostor scams, especially in the months preceding and immediately following tax season. Use these tips to stay vigilant and avoid becoming the target of an IRS email scam!

Take a close look at the sender’s email address and writing

Many IRS email phishing scams involve a con artist pretending to be an IRS representative, requesting the taxpayer to provide information to the requesting party. This means the sender’s email could look like they’re contacting you from the IRS, but chances are, things are a little off with their email address or subject line.

  • Check for correct spelling: Many scammers will create email addresses that are just one letter off from the true IRS domain, or that of another official tax entity. Check to make sure all of the spelling is correct before responding to their request. Additionally, if there are misspellings or incorrect grammar within the email itself, you may consider this a red flag.
  • Look for “.gov”: Any email from a legitimate federal agency should have “.gov” at the end of the sender’s email address—not .com, .org, etc.
  • Avoid general subject lines: You should be wary of very general subject lines and greetings like, “Hello,” without your name, or subject lines that do not provide much information to give you an idea of what the email is about.
  • Enticing links: Some scammers will try to get you to click on a link that could have malware embedded which as the ability to hack into your device or give your computer a virus. If any email seems suspicious at all, don’t click any links or open attachments.

Know how the IRS communicates

In general, the IRS communicates with taxpayers via U.S. mail. According to the IRS website, the IRS does not use email, social media, or text messaging to communicate information about tax debts or refunds. In addition, consumers should note that the IRS will always identify themselves, never ask for wire transfers over the phone, and will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card or gift card.

Aggressive communication is a red flag

If an individual tries to contact you saying they’re from the Internal Revenue Service, and becomes aggressive during any point in your correspondence, you should consider this a red flag and report the scam issue with the IRS.

Contact the IRS directly

If you have a feeling that you may be dealing with an IRS impostor scam, you should verify by contacting your local IRS tax office. In addition, you can be proactive by researching recent tax scams to protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim!

Covid-Related IRS impostor scams are on the rise

Due to the unprecedented financial impact of the pandemic, the Federal government has been aggressively pursuing relief options for taxpayers and small businesses. Because these relief options are disbursed via the IRS, scammers have seized on the opportunity for increased volume.

Unfortunately, these scams will be much more commonplace this year than in years past. It is imperative now more than ever to know exactly what to look for and how to avoid having your financial information compromised.

Remember to look out for red flags — and if you suspect a scam, report it to the IRS. It is the right thing to do to protect fellow taxpayers.