Beware of IRS Impersonation Telephone Scams

A Fake IRS Phone Call

In July 2019, a woman from Rochester, Washington State fell victim to a scam in which she was defrauded of nearly $10,000 by an individual posing as an IRS agent over the phone. According to a report by King5 news, the scammers had obtained Wendy Weaver's social security number and informed her that it was implicated in a fraud case. When Weaver expressed skepticism and sought clarification, she was transferred to someone claiming to be a deputy from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Over the course of several hours, the impostor deputy manipulated Weaver into purchasing thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from various stores in Olympia. Assuring her that the funds would be secure with the department, the fake deputy provided Weaver with a badge number and the name of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, leading her to believe the legitimacy of the transaction.

Upon the conclusion of the phone call, Weaver was abruptly jolted back to reality and realized the harsh truth - she had been deceived. Reflecting on the incident, she expressed her shock and regret, stating, “As soon as the phone call ended, I just snapped back into reality and realized ‘Oh my God, I just got scammed.”

Recently released data from the Federal Trade Commission reveals that American consumers have reported losing over $10 billion to fraud in 2023, a significant milestone in the realm of financial crime. This represents a 14% increase from reported losses in 2022, indicating a troubling trend in fraudulent activity. 

Imposter scams emerged as the second highest reported loss category, with victims reporting losses totaling nearly $2.7 billion.

In 2023, taxpayers suffered a loss of $4.26 million due to IRS imposter scams, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission. This figure is based on 2,847 reported cases of IRS imposters, a decrease from the 3,162 cases reported in 2022 which resulted in total losses of $6.92 million.

Don't Fall for the IRS Impersonation Phone Call Scams

The IRS impersonation telephone scam is a sophisticated scheme that targets taxpayers, including recent immigrants, and is currently widespread across the nation. This scam involves criminals who make aggressive phone calls while posing as IRS agents, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers in an attempt to steal taxpayer money or personal information.

What is even more concerning is that these scammers may possess a significant amount of information about you before reaching out, and they often manipulate the caller ID to make it appear as though the call is coming from the IRS.

If you are contacted by these scammers, you may be informed that you owe money to the IRS and that it must be paid immediately through a gift card or wire transfer, as seen in the case of Wendy Weaver. Additionally, you may be threatened with arrest or the suspension of your business or driver's license. In many instances, the caller may become hostile and use insulting language.

Furthermore, you may be falsely informed that you are entitled to a refund in an effort to deceive you into divulging private information. If you do not answer the phone, the scammers frequently leave an "urgent" request for you to call them back.

There have been reports of scammers utilizing video relay services (VRS) in attempts to deceive deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Additionally, individuals with Limited English Proficiency are often targeted in their native language, with threats of deportation, police arrest, and license revocation, among other things.

Will the IRS Ever Call You on The Phone?

As a taxpayer, it is crucial for you to be aware of the methods and timing of communication used by the IRS when contacting taxpayers. This knowledge will enable you to discern whether a call you have received is genuinely from an IRS representative. According to information provided on the IRS website, the IRS typically initiates contact through traditional mail services provided by the United States Postal Service. However, there are specific situations in which the IRS may opt to make a phone call or visit a taxpayer's residence or place of business.

These circumstances may include instances where there is an outstanding tax liability, an unfiled tax return, or a failure to make required employment tax deposits. Additionally, an IRS representative may conduct an asset review or business inspection as part of a collection inquiry, audit, or criminal investigation. You should note that even in these scenarios, the IRS will generally send multiple notifications and letters through the mail prior to taking further action.

So, yes, the IRS can call you, but it is rare. In fact, the majority of taxpayers never receive phone calls from the IRS.

Signs of Fake IRS Phone Calls | Report Fake IRS Phone Calls

Although the reason for the call may vary, fake IRS calls usually follow a certain pattern. Here are some signs to look out for to spot a fake IRS phone call:
  • The caller demands immediate payment using specific methods such as prepaid debit cards, gift cards, or wire transfers. You should note that the IRS typically sends a bill through the mail before requesting payment for any owed taxes.
  • The caller threatens to involve local police or other law enforcement agencies to have you arrested for non-payment. The IRS does not operate in this manner.
  • The caller demands payment without allowing you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. The IRS provides avenues for individuals to dispute any tax liabilities.
  • The caller requests credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Never provide sensitive financial information over the phone to unknown callers.
If you receive a suspicious call that exhibits any of the above signs, it is crucial to report the impostor to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration through the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. You may also contact 800-366-4484 to report impersonation scams.

If you have provided a scammer with your personal information, such as your Social Security number, username, or password, it is crucial that you take immediate action to protect yourself. Visit to learn the necessary steps to safeguard your identity, including how to monitor your credit. Be sure to create a new, strong password and update it on any other accounts where you may have used the same password.

If you have fallen victim to an IRS phone scam and lost money, or if you have information regarding the company or individual behind the scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at

If you simply wish to report a suspicious call without any financial loss, you can use the streamlined reporting form available at

Your cooperation in providing detailed information about the call, such as the number displayed on your caller ID, the number provided by the scammer, and the date and time of the call, is invaluable in helping the FTC and law enforcement agencies track down and stop scammers.

The FTC shares the phone numbers reported by individuals on a daily basis, aiding phone carriers and other partners in developing call-blocking and call-labeling solutions.

Lastly, if someone contacts you claiming to assist in recovering lost funds, refrain from providing any money or personal information. Chances are, you are being targeted by a fund recovery scam.
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