Skip to main content

IRS and Government Imposter Scams

Information about IRS and Government Imposter Scams and how to avoid them.

How It Works

You get a call from someone who says she’s from the IRS. She says that you owe back taxes. She threatens to sue you, arrest or deport you, or revoke your license if you don’t pay right away. She tells you to put money on a prepaid debit card and give her the card numbers.

The caller may know some of your Social Security number. And your caller ID might show a Washington, DC area code. But is it really the IRS calling?

No. The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. They also won’t ask for a credit card over the phone. And when the IRS first contacts you about unpaid taxes, they do it by mail, not by phone. And caller IDs can be faked.

How to Prevent It

  • Don’t wire money or pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. If the scammer tells you to use a gift card, they will ask for the PIN numbers on the back to gain access to the funds stored on the card. Once you send it, the money will be gone as soon as the scammer can get it.
  • If you have tax questions, go to or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  • Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information. Government agencies, such as the IRS, do not call you with threats, promises of – or demand for- money. Scammer do.
  • Do not trust caller ID. It can be faked or “spoofed” making it look like a real call, but it is not.
  • Never pay with a gift card of wire transfer. If someone tells you to pay this way, it is a scam.
  • Check with the real agency. Look up their number. Call them to find out if they are trying to reach you- and why.

If you lost money you should act immediately:

  • Call the gift card or debit card company immediately. The contact number is on the back of the card. If reported immediately, you may be able to stop the transfer of funds, otherwise it may not be possible to stop the funds from being withdrawn. It is also important to alert the card company of fraud.
  • If you sent cash, report it immediately to the postal service or whatever company you used. If you act quickly you may be able to stop delivery by giving the tracking number to the delivery company.
  • If you gave personal information to the scammer you may be subject to identity theft. Learn what to do.
  • Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission: Report Now

Learn More

How to spot scammers who pretend to be IRS officials to get you to send them money.