The Internal Revenue Service never contacts taxpayers via e-mail. So if you have received an email claiming to come from the IRS, chances are the email is a scam. You can delete the email and forget about it. Or, if you would like to help fight crime, you can forward the email to the IRS so they can investigate it.
How to Spot a Scam Email
If the email asks you for the following information, you can be sure it comes from someone who is phishing for your personal information for their own gain.
- credit card number
- bank account number
- other sensitive information.
How the IRS Typically Contacts People
The IRS never contacts a taxpayer by email. If the IRS wants to get your attention, they will send you a letter. And if the IRS really wants to get your attention, they will send you a certified letter.
“The IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information,” the IRS wrote on February 18, 2015 (IR-2015-31).
For the eagle-eyed out there, notice the subtle change from what the IRS said back in 2007:
“The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.” (Source: IR-2007-109.)
The first contact from the IRS will be by letter.
The IRS rarely calls, and never emails. Of course, the IRS sends out informational emails, but that’s not what we are talking about here.
The Tricks Used in Scam Emails
Email scams often trick you into thinking you have a missing refund or are under criminal investigation. They could refer to a non-existent tax form or ask for your credit card number.
Recent email scams may also have spelling mistakes and show tax refunds for an amount that includes dollars and cents. (Usually, tax refunds are for amounts in whole dollars.)
Don’t Click on Links or Open Attachments
The email probably contains links to Web sites or attachments.
- Do not click on those links
- Do not open any attachments
Those Web pages or attachments could contain malicious software or code designed to hijack your computer.
Forward the Email to the IRS for Investigation
You can forward the email to the IRS. Investigators at the tax agency will use the information contained in the emails to track down the criminals.
To forward the email, make sure your email software is displaying all the headers in the message. Many email programs show only the most important headers by default. Once you are displaying all the headers, forward the scam email to email@example.com.
“The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the bogus e-mails to trace the hosting Web sites and alert authorities to help shut down these fraudulent sites,” the IRS said back in 2006 (IR-2006-49).
The IRS will probably not acknowledge the receipt of your email.
Delete the Email
After forwarding the email to the IRS, delete the email.
You might also want to run a scan of your computer using your antivirus or internet security program.
Contacting the IRS
If you have any concerns or questions about your taxes, you should contact the IRS directly. Here are some phone numbers:
- Tax Refunds: 1-800-829-4477, or visit the IRS Web site.
- Questions about Your Taxes: 1-800-829-1040, or visit a local IRS office.