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Protect yourself this tax season: Seven warning signs of an IRS scam

Tax season can be stressful enough, the last thing you need is a scammer to steal your identity, file a fraudulent claim and pocket your tax return.

Unfortunately, it happens every year to countless individuals and results in millions of dollars being stolen and credit scores being ruined.

Scammers are constantly finding new ways to trick people into giving up their personal information. You can avoid becoming a victim and protect yourself if you know some of the warning signs of a scam. Keep reading to learn about these seven warning signs of an IRS scam.

  1. Someone contacts you first

Unless you initially reach out to the IRS with questions, they won’t contact you. If someone contacts you and says they’re from the IRS and offers to help you in some way, ignore them.

  1. You’re asked to provide sensitive information

The IRS will never contact you to ask for any sensitive information to “help finish your return” or “update their records”. If you’re missing any specific information related to filing your taxes, you won’t be able to complete your forms at all and will need to do it again on your own or through a tax professional.

If you contact the IRS for any reason, they may ask for some sensitive information simply to verify your identity. Make sure you keep these differences in mind.

  1. You receive a pre-recorded voicemail

Robocalls have (unfortunately) become a part of our everyday lives. Scammers will call you offering to help you file or claiming you need to “fix” your return immediately. When you get one of these robotic-sounding messages, block the number and delete the message.

  1. You receive threats of any kind

The IRS won’t contact you with a threatening message and demand immediate payment. If you owe the IRS money, they will first contact you by mail, then you’ll be directed to create a profile on their online payment portal.

  1. You’re asked to pay with gift cards, third party wire transfers or cryptocurrency

The IRS will only use their own portal to accept funds online, by cash, check or money order. They’ll never ask you to pay with gift cards, wire transfers or some form of electronic currency.

  1. They give you a form that’s not on the IRS website

Sometimes scammers send you a form they say needs to be filled out. Before you complete any form, you should look for it on the to be sure it’s legitimate. Even if it does exist, it’s a good idea to thoroughly compare the documents to be sure they’re the same. Some scammers download real forms but alter them so the information and/or money goes to them.

  1. The agent won’t provide their IRS-issued credential or HSPD-12 card

If an IRS agent makes a house call, they’re required to show you both their IRS-issued credential (known as a pocket commission) and an HSPD-12 (Homeland Security Presidential Directive) card. Write down all badge numbers and the name of the agent, then contact the IRS immediately to verify their identity. If they pretend like it’s not necessary to present them, it’s a scammer.1

Contact the right people if you have questions

If you ever find yourself in one of these situations, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040. Even if the person contacting you is demanding immediate action, don’t be intimidated into doing what they ask.

Another great way to stay safe this tax season and all year long is to use our Credit Sense tool to monitor your credit. As a Park customer, you can access your credit score, full credit report and financial tips for free through online banking and our mobile app.


1 Internal Revenue Service; How to know if it’s really the IRS


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