What Are Tax Scams and Fake IRS Emails?

prevent tax fraud

The IRS categorizes any email scam that involves tricking victims into revealing personal and financial information over the Internet as "phishing". They do not initiate contact via email, nor do they ask people for PIN numbers, passwords, or other access information for their credit card, bank, or other financial accounts. Every year, the IRS alerts taxpayers to the latest versions of these email scams.

What Are the Latest Email Tax Scams?

Below are some of the most recent email tax scams: 

  • Fake Tax Bills Related to the Affordable Care Act: These "bills" are emails with attachments of fake CP2000 IRS notices (the IRS only sends these notices via certified mail) related to 2015 Affordable Care Act underpayments for 2014 health insurance coverage. The emails request that taxpayers write a check to "I.R.S" and send it to the "Austin Processing Center" with a Post Office Box address, as well as send an electronic payment via clicking a link. 
  • Update IRS efile Emails: These emails include a link to a fake website that looks like the official IRS website. They instruct the reader to "update your IRS e-file immediately.” by clicking the link and entering their information in the website that opens. The emails mention IRSgov and USA.gov, but not IRS.gov (IRS-dot-gov). These emails are NOT from the IRS, so anyone who gets these types of emails should not respond to the email or click on any links in the email.
  • Emails Supposedly from the IRS Criminal Investigation Division: Emails purporting to be from IRS Criminal Investigation Division falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Board. They seek to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. DO NOT click the link in the email or open the attachment. The link and attachment is a Trojan Horse, which can take over a computer hard drive and allow someone remote access to it.
  • The IRS Acting as Arbitrator: This type of email suggests that a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can help to settle the despite. Different versions of the email are aimed at business and individual taxpayers. 
  • Requests for Bank Account Numbers: Other fraudulent email scams entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS website and ask for bank account numbers. Another widespread email tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a tax refund for them and asks for financial account information.

How is the IRS and Other Government Agencies Fighting Email Tax Scams?

The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

What Should I Do If I Received One of These Scam Emails?

Do not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the emails. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

What If I Become a Victim of Identity Theft? 

Please contact the IRS Identity Theft Hotline at 1-800-908-4490.

Where Do I Find More Information on Tax Return Fraud & Identity Theft?

How to report tax return fraud to IRS

Personal information, credit card fraudulently used on efile.com