You might’ve received text messages that looked like IRS notifications. However, you’re not sure if they're legit.
Tax scams are everywhere, so it’s right to be suspicious. You’ve come to the right place.
We checked official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sources to understand the process it follows when communicating with taxpayers. We also looked into the experiences of people who had their tax identity stolen and gathered the best tips on how to overcome it.
Read until the end to learn the top tips on avoiding IRS scams. Don’t miss out on the crucial steps to avoid scams and identity theft, thereby risking your information even more.
How does the IRS communicate with taxpayers?
The IRS doesn’t communicate with taxpayers in certain ways.
Will the IRS text you about your refund? Will you get a text about your stimulus check? The answer to both questions is no, and here are some facts about how the agency contacts taxpayers:
- The IRS doesn’t send texts or communicate through social media. So if you got a text message from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, it’s part of a scam.
- IRS agents may visit your home or business if you have tax debts or unfiled payroll taxes. If this happens to you, ask for their pocket commission and Personal Identity Verification Credential.
- Here’s how the IRS will contact you: usually, you’ll receive a letter delivered by the US Postal Service (USPS). It’s unlikely for the IRS to initiate communication through emails.
- Will the IRS contact you by phone? It depends on the situation, but as mentioned earlier, the agency usually sends a letter or notice in advance.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated that there were more than 89,000 reports of identity theft cases related to tax fraud. Still, scammers are developing ways to deceive taxpayers.
One of the techniques involves scam text messages. Here’s how it works: you’ll receive a text from scammers about an unemployment claim, stimulus check, or refund.
Identity thieves will then ask you to pay and verify your information. They’ll often threaten you with arrests and fines to carry out their fraudulent acts.
For example, they use 60682 to send text messages. The text reads: “Your federal return was rejected by the IRS. Don’t worry we’ll help you fix the problem. Check your email for more information.”
But it isn’t the number that the IRS texts from. The agency uses the shortcodes 77958 and 38685 for their online password service and secure messaging.
Also, the messages are automatically generated, so you can’t reply to the numbers, unlike the scammers’ phone numbers where they demand a reply.
Fraudsters even took advantage of the pandemic and fabricated a COVID-related text message scam. The IRS reported that hackers send text messages informing people about a $1,200 direct deposit from the COVID-19 TREAS Fund. However, the text includes a phishing web address that redirects to a look-alike of the IRS.gov website.
The scammers will steal your money and identity once you visit the website and enter your personal and financial information.
So how do you know if an IRS notice is real?
You have to look for three things:
- Reason for the letter
- Verifiable number
- Clear instructions
Here are some reasons why IRS will send you a letter or notice:
- You have a balance due.
- The IRS needs to verify your identity.
- The agency needs additional information.
- The IRS has a question about your refund.
You must also see a verifiable number on the letter's top or bottom right corner. If there’s none, it’s likely from a scammer.
Also, since the IRS is a government institution, its letters should contain specific instructions on what taxpayers need to do after reading the notice. For example, the agency may state that you don’t need to reply. On the other hand, some letters have bullet points to guide you regarding the next steps.
What should you do with fake IRS text messages?
Since scammers exert much effort into deceiving as many taxpayers as possible, it can’t be helped that you’ll receive a fake IRS text message.
Here’s what you can do when it happens:
- Don’t open any attachments, and don’t click the links included in the text. This is the top tip on how to avoid IRS scams.
- Never reply to the sender.
- Take a screenshot of the message, then forward it to [email protected].
- State the date and time you received the message.
- You should also mention your number in the report.
- Delete the message and block the sender.
But if you clicked on links or provided personal information, you can contact the IRS identity theft phone number at 800-908-4490.
What are the other IRS imposter scams to avoid?
Aside from the fake text message, here are some of the techniques that scammers use to deceive their victims.
Fraudsters can also send emails with malicious URLs. Once you open the official-looking website, they can collect your information and use it to commit identity theft. They can also make fraudulent transactions using your credit card.
Fraudulent phone calls
Bogus agents may call you to solicit payments for your alleged tax debts, even though you don’t owe any to the IRS. They may also threaten you with prison time if you don’t pay immediately.
If you receive physical mail that instructs you to pay other than to the US Treasury Department, it’s mail fraud. Like in fraudulent phone calls, scammers may wrongfully claim that you’ll go to jail if you don’t pay your taxes.
Can you protect yourself against fake IRS text messages?
Scammers may have various imposter scams, such as fake text messages, phishing, fraudulent phone calls, and mail fraud, but you can still avoid them.
Never click any link or attachment to prevent compromising your data and becoming a victim of identity theft. It can help you avoid IRS text scams.