How to avoid the lure

Here are some tips to know if the correspondence is fake.

  • The IRS never initiates contact via email. If you get an unsolicited e-mail from the IRS requesting a response, do not reply! Instead, forward the email to
  • Never click or download. Perhaps even more important, never click on a link or open a file on a suspicious email. This is true even if the email comes from someone you know. Too often phishing comes from a thief impersonating someone you know.
  • Know the website. This includes the appearance, but more importantly the address – the exact address. The valid address for the IRS is For the Social Security Administration, the address is Even a single letter could be off to make you think it is legitimate.
  • They may already have information about you. Competent phishers already have parts of your identity, so just because they know things like your middle name and birth date does not make them legitimate e-mails.
  • Phishing over the phone. Phishing can also take place over the phone. If you receive an unsolicited phone call, get the person’s name and ID, then hang up. Then go to the IRS (or vendor) website, take down their phone number and call them back using this phone number. Most fake calls are ended quickly when taking this approach.
  • Don’t forget social media. Phishing can also happen via social media and texting. Virtually every digital resource has the potential to be used as a tool for theft. The IRS will never initiate contact through direct messages or SMS texting.

More red flags

Another obvious sign of a fraudster may come down to the details in the correspondence.  To better protect yourself, be aware of what the IRS would not do.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand a taxpayer use a payment method such as prepaid debit card or gift card.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without opportunity to appeal or question the amount owed.
  • Threaten to revoke a license or bring in the police, immigration, or other law enforcement.

If a caller is making such threats, it is likely a scam attempt.

Once you are in their net

When the phishers have your information, they can file false tax returns requesting refunds, steal bank information, set up fake credit cards, establish false IDs, sell details on the dark web, plus much more. Remember, if it smells like a phish, it probably is.

So if you are netted by a clever phisher, take action quickly. Contact the IRS, local authorities, your financial institutions and credit agencies. Also review recommended steps as outlined on