“This is the IRS. Records show that you owe a $1,556 tax debt, that must be paid immediately or you could go to court or jail. For your convenience, you can send the funds on an iTunes gift card to this address…”

If you’ve gotten a call like that, you’ve been the target of an IRS impersonator.

Or maybe you’ve gotten an official looking email from the IRS, informing you of an outstanding tax debt due to a mistake in your tax return. The email instructs you to send a check made out to “IRS” within the next thirty days to avoid a federal lawsuit.

That email is the work of an IRS impersonator… and he’s probably just getting started.

Over the past three years, fake IRS agents have contacted more than one million Americans. And the Treasury Department reports that these criminals have collected nearly $29 million from more than 5,500 victims who fell prey to their scams.

How can you tell it’s a scam and not the real IRS?

The IRS will NEVER

  • make initial contact by phone, email, text, or social media
  • ask for your credit card information
  • demand payment on iTunes gift cards (or any gift cards, for that matter)
  • ask for payment on prepaid debit or prepaid credit cards
  • tell you to deposit or wire money into another person’s account to settle a tax debt
  • threaten you with lawsuits, deportation, or jail time
  • ask for credit card or bank account numbers over the phone
  • send an email asking you to supply personal or financial information
  • ask you to make out a check to the IRS (real tax checks are made out to United States Treasury)
  • claim that you owe more money for your coverage under the American Healthcare Act

So if you get a phone call from the IRS claiming that you owe money, and threatening you with legal action, hang up. As soon as you do that, report the fishy call at here (there’s a simple form to walk you through the incident details). If you get an IRS-related phishing email, and forward it directly to [email protected]. Never click on any links or open any attachments in these emails.

When the IRS really wants to get in touch with you, they’ll send you a letter through the U.S. Mail. If you get one of those, it’s time to call your accountant… she’ll know if it’s legit.

Want to double check? You can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to find out if a notice you’ve gotten is really from the agency.