The IRS is Calling Me…Is It Real or a Scam?

Have you or someone you know received an unexpected call from the IRS? Did they demand you pay a tax debt immediately?

When this happens, it’s a scam. Just hang up.

In fact, this is a very common scam that has tricked Americans out of over 23 million dollars. It is consistently listed as one of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. 

People from all walks of life have fallen prey to this phone scam. 

But why?

It may appear like a legit call. Scammers can alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and IRS badge numbers. There is a possibility they know some information about you to make the call seem real. 

Typically, these scammers prey on vulnerable populations such as the elderly or immigrants whose first language is not English. They may threaten individuals with deportation, police arrest, or other harsh consequences. They sometimes leave “urgent” callback requests.

These scare tactics can throw someone off guard. Creating that charge of emotion is a big part of the scam. The shock and fear may cause an individual to share personal information without giving it a second thought.  After all, who actually wants the IRS after them?

Understanding the IRS

Preventing you and your loved ones from getting scammed starts with education. 

Here is what you need to know about how the IRS operates and collects tax debt:

The IRS Does NOT:

  • Call to demand immediate payment without prior notice
  • Use “robocalls” (pre-recorded calls) to contact you
  • Demand you pay taxes without questioning the charges
  • Requires a specific method to pay for taxes (e.g. prepaid debit card)
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
  • Require sharing passwords or other sensitive information over the phone
  • Threaten to bring in the police or other law-enforcement groups if you don’t pay.
  • Use email, text message, or social media to discuss tax issues


  • Initially contact you through the MAIL if you have a tax bill
  • Allow you to question or appeal any tax bill
  • Allow you to pay your debt with different methods
  • Give you a period of time to pay your tax bill

What Should I Do If I Get a Scam Call?

If you get an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, HANG UP. It’s that simple. Don’t engage them or confront them. Don’t give out any information.

Just hang up. 

There are also some things you could do to set your mind at ease and possibly help stop one of these scammers.

If you don’t believe you have any tax debt, you could report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Click the red box that says “Report a Crime or IRS Employee Misconduct”. You will be guided through some questions.
You could also contact the Federal Trade Commission and report a scam. Be sure to write “IRS phone scam” in the comments section.

Getting a Scam Call When You Know You Owe Taxes

Those that know they owe taxes may be more vulnerable to scam calls like these. 

Think about it…You already know you have a tax bill, you’re not sure how to pay it, and now you feel like the IRS is putting pressure on you to pay. At that moment, it seems like the best thing to do is comply with the call. 

If you are dealing with tax issues, you could speak to the IRS directly. There should be a contact number on any tax bill you’ve recently received. You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040

Another option is using a tax relief service to help reduce the amount you owe and make your tax payments more manageable. Tax relief experts can guide you through complex tax laws and show you what options are available to pay off your tax debt. 

Help prevent people from getting scammed! Please share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.