IRS LogoAbout IRS Impersonation Scams

Recently, a variety of confidence schemes and scams stemming from individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service personnel have begun to be reported. These involve masquerading as representatives of the IRS to obtain confidential financial information or false payments. Since the IRS carries the authority of the federal government, many consumers who might spot other forms of phishing still find themselves vulnerable to an IRS impersonation scam.

 

How Does It Work?

Generally, these operations are built around an email or phone call, during which the fraudster pretends to represent the IRS. The general story given to prospective victims is that the individual has made some kind of mistake on their return and owes the IRS money. Sometimes, this is presented as an audit that has been completed. At other times, it is represented as a way of paying the balance without the trouble of an audit.

Either way, the goal is to obtain and/or confirm individual financial information. The false charge for the fee might be the end of the scam, or it could continue, with the impersonator continuing to charge the card or to use it for fraudulent transactions until they are stopped.

Cost/Price Plans

The costs presented by scammers are generally low enough to appear more convenient than going through the motions of a full audit and investigation, mainly coming in under $500. These encourage those who are easily intimidated by the IRS’s reputation to pay without question, an element that fraudsters count on to ensure they make the transaction and get away before the scam is detected.

Refund Policy

Since IRS impersonation is a crime and the Internal Revenue Service has no way of tracking these false payments, obtaining restitution after being scammed is difficult. Filing a police report is often the first step, and individual liabilities for the charges will vary according to your bank and/or credit card’s terms of service. Often, this liability is limited to either $50 or $250 if it is present at all.

Customer Service Contact Info

The Internal Revenue Service does maintain a contact form for reporting a potential IRS impersonation scam for investigation. There are no available phone lines, but the online form at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml collects all the relevant details about the size of the transaction, consequences, and individual contact information.

Reputation

Since the Internal Revenue Service is known for aggressively pursuing tax payments from those who owe, it is not surprising that scammers would take advantage of this reputation to attempt to fool those who do not know better. The IRS is a government body whose communications are very much like other governmental bodies and whose appeals processes and expectations are disclosed in their materials.

An actual communication from the IRS will not ask for the disclosure of distinct financial details on your part, nor will it demand immediate payment without a paper bill. The IRS is also not in the habit of demanding payment in certain forms. If any of these occur during a communication with someone presenting themselves as an IRS representative, you are dealing with a case of impersonation.

Common Complaints

Most complaints lodged about IRS impersonation highlights the use of high pressure sales tactics and the constant demands for personal information that define this kind of scam. Real communications from the government might be blunt about timelines and other expectations, but they will not involve those kinds of immediate-response tactics. Those are always hallmarks of fraud, and they should be reported to the IRS.

Analysis & Conclusions

While they may seem obvious from a distance, the effectiveness of IRS impersonation scams should not be underestimated. In the moment, phone-based demands and high pressure conversation tactics are often very persuasive, affecting people who would not consider the terms offered if presented in writing and given time to think. Be on the lookout for these kinds of tactics.

Final Verdict: The IRS itself is NOT a scam. However, there are people out there who will use its name in an attempt to scam you.