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Tax Tip Tuesday: Understanding IRS Standard Communication Methods to Identify Tax Refund Scams

red, black and white Danger, Tax Scam warning sign

Dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be an intimidating experience for many individuals. The complexities of tax-related matters coupled with the perceived authority of the IRS can often create an environment of apprehension. Tax refund scammers thrive on this uneasiness and find lucrative ways to exploit fraudulent activities. Therefore, understanding the IRS's standard communication methods is a powerful tool for swiftly identifying potential impostors.


IRS Standard Communication Methods

So, how do you spot a tax refund scam, IRS imposter, or another fraudulent practice that criminals employ to victimize unsuspecting individuals?

  1. Nearly all legitimate IRS communication arrives as physical mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS does not use unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media to communicate with taxpayers.

  2. There are some instances in which the IRS will call a taxpayer, typically after sending multiple letters in the mail. It will always be a human on the other end of the line, and any prerecorded or automated message is a scam.

  3. If you have a history of unpaid taxes and have not responded to mailed letters, the IRS may resort to a phone call or in-person visit. During the phone call, an IRS agent will provide their name, while an in-person visit will involve an agent with an HSPD-12 government ID badge for official identification. Remember, the IRS will never use threats or demand immediate payment, and anyone claiming you will be arrested or deported is a fraudster.

  4. Threats to revoke, freeze, or cancel identification, such as your Social Security number, driver's license number, business license, or visa, are indications of fraud.

  5. The IRS offers several payment methods, including payment through If a caller instructs you to pay through unofficial channels such as gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency, you know it is a scam. Additionally, if the caller tells you to write a check to the IRS, be cautious. The IRS requests all checks be made to the U.S. Treasury. 


Build Confidence and Discern Authenticity

By familiarizing yourself with the legitimate ways the IRS communicates, you can build confidence and discern authenticity when dealing with matters concerning your taxes, ensuring a more informed and secure approach to your interactions with the IRS. Plus, it keeps the imposters at bay!

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