As of July 2023, the IRS made the decision to suspend the majority of its surprise visits to taxpayers, aiming to clear up any public bewilderment and bolster the safety of both taxpayers and IRS staff members. Previously, it was common for IRS representatives to make direct visits to homes and businesses to address tax delinquencies or unsubmitted tax returns.
Following the recent directive, such impromptu visits have been discontinued and are being substituted with written notifications that urge taxpayers to book an appointment with the IRS. There are, however, notable exceptions to this policy, which include circumstances requiring the delivery of subpoenas or conducting sensitive compliance operations that involve confiscating assets, especially those that are in jeopardy of being concealed from governmental access.
IRS agents to my home or scam?
This procedural update is also a strategic response to the increasing instances of fraudsters preying on taxpayers, which has significantly muddled the public’s understanding of authentic tax collection engagements. Only those individuals who receive an official IRS notice, specifically the 725-B letter, will be authorized to set up a face-to-face meeting.
Con artists have boldly masqueraded as IRS officials, aggressively contacting taxpayers to demand prompt settlement of alleged outstanding tax liabilities, threatening incarceration for non-compliance. Some even employ robocalls to deliver pre-recorded messages prompting recipients to return the call to resolve an alleged tax matter.
Moreover, these scammers have taken to dispatching fraudulent communications through various channels including mail, email, and text messages. The IRS has spotlighted a recent scheme where these imposters send out letters, craftily packaged in cardboard envelopes mimicking courier services, falsely notifying recipients about “unclaimed refunds” and providing non-IRS contact numbers. These letters typically fish for personal details, such as high-resolution images of driver’s licenses, which could be exploited for identity theft and fraudulent tax refund claims.
The FTC has also identified a scam variant involving text messages about a “tax refund” or similar tax-related incentives. The FTC’s stance is clear: regardless of the message, it’s the work of fraudsters attempting to steal identities. By clicking on any links to “claim your refund,” individuals risk exposing themselves to identity theft or the introduction of malware onto their devices.
Educational institutions have become a new hunting ground for these fraudsters, targeting students and staff with .edu email addresses using deceivingly official emails (phishing attempts) adorned with IRS logos and subjects claiming “Tax Refund Payment.” These deceptive emails direct the unsuspecting to websites that solicit sensitive personal data, like Social Security and driver’s license numbers, allegedly to expedite a “refund.”
Be alert for these warning signs
An unexpected call comes in, claiming to be from the IRS. Remember, the IRS’s standard communication method is through postal mail, particularly regarding overdue taxes, and will usually reach out via phone or in person only after multiple notices have been sent.
The alleged IRS representative insists on on-the-spot payment, threatening legal action or arrest — a tactic the IRS categorically denies employing. A suspicious email with IRS branding directs you to a site that requests your confidential and financial information under the guise of processing a tax refund.
Requests for settling a tax bill using unconventional payment methods like gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfers are telltale signs of fraudulent activity.
Steps to safeguard yourself
If you’re on the receiving end of a call from someone asserting they’re with the IRS, hang up immediately unless you have prior written communication from the agency validating your tax debt. To verify your tax payment status, directly contact the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Redirect any unexpected emails claiming IRS or Treasury Department affiliation to [email protected] without clicking on links or downloading attachments. Verify the identity of any individual claiming to be an IRS agent in person. Genuine IRS agents can provide two forms of identification: a “pocket commission” and an HSPD-12 card. They should also be able to give you an official phone number to confirm their identity.
No IRS agent will ever contact you via email or text to request personal details. To inquire about potential tax dues, dial the IRS’s assistance line for individuals at 800-829-1040.
Should you be on the receiving end of a deceptive IRS call, immediately report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or lodge a complaint on their website.