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All About IRS Imposter Scams

The phone rings. It’s someone who says they’re from the IRS. They tell you that you have an unpaid tax bill. They say if you don’t send them money immediately, you’ll be arrested. What do you do?

Pause. Take a breath. Is it really the IRS — or an imposter?

Phony calls like this happen all the time, especially as tax season draws near. It’s an IRS imposter scam, and it can be scary. But if you know the signs to look for, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Here’s how to spot an IRS scammer:

#1: They call you first

The IRS will not initiate contact with taxpayers via random phone call. If they need to contact you, you’ll receive one (or more) letter notices in the mail first. If you receive an unexpected phone call or a threatening prerecorded voicemail, it’s a scammer.

#2: They text or email you

Likewise, the IRS does not contact taxpayers via SMS text message, email or social media asking for personal or financial information. A phony IRS message may say you owe taxes or mention a “tax rebate” or “refund payment.” It may ask you to verify your Social Security number or provide other financial information like your credit card number. Don’t be fooled! While scammers can make these messages look legit, they’re just fishing for your information.

Don’t click on any links or open attachments, and remember, the IRS website is, not a variation like or

#3​: They threaten to get authorities involved

Scammers love to use fear tactics to trick their victims into acting quickly without thinking. The IRS will not threaten to immediately bring in police or other law enforcement to arrest people for not paying. They also cannot revoke a driver’s license, business license or immigration status. If you feel scared or unsure, listen to your gut. Call IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to see if they were actually trying to reach you.

What to Do if You Spot an IRS Imposter Scam

Even if you don’t fall for an IRS imposter scam, the IRS can use your experience to warn others. Forward suspicious emails as attachments or send screenshots of text messages to

If you do become a victim, contact your financial institution right away to protect your accounts and file an identity theft report at to get a personalized recovery plan.

Where to Find More Fraud Prevention R​esources

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help you stay up-to-date on the latest scams so you can protect yourself against fraud. For more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, check out our Fraud Prevention page.​