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2021 IRS Scams


The IRS continues to warn consumers to guard against scam phone calls from thieves intent on stealing their money or their identity. Criminals pose as the IRS to trick victims out of their money or personal information. Here are several tips to help you avoid being a victim of these scams:

  • Scammers make unsolicited calls.  Thieves call taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.
  • Callers try to scare their victims.  Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
  • Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
  • Cons try new tricks all the time.  Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send to their victims. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
  • Scams cost victims over $23 million.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam. 
  • The IRS will not:
    • Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
    • Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
    • Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
    • Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
    • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

    If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:

    • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
    • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” webpage. You can also call 800-366-4484.
    • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

    If you know you owe, or think you may owe a taxes, E l Cid can help you.

    Contact El Cid

    Phone scams first tried to sting older people, new immigrants to the U.S. and those who speak English as a second language. Now the crooks try to swindle just about anyone. And they’ve ripped-off people in every state in the nation.

    Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

    Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Americans urged to watch out for tax scams during the pandemic

IR-2021-135, June 28, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today began its “Dirty Dozen” list for 2021 with a warning for taxpayers, tax professionals and financial institutions to be on the lookout for these 12 nefarious schemes and scams.

This year’s “Dirty Dozen” will be separated into four separate categories:

  • pandemic-related scams like Economic Impact Payment theft.
  • personal information cons including phishing, ransomware and phone “vishing;”
  • ruses focusing on unsuspecting victims like fake charities and senior/immigrant fraud; and
  • schemes that persuade taxpayers into unscrupulous actions such as Offer in Compromise mills and syndicated conservation easements.

The agency compiled the list into these categories based on who perpetuates the schemes and who they impact. In addition to today’s scams the IRS will highlight the other schemes over the next three days.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to be on guard, especially during the pandemic, not only for themselves, but also for other people in their lives.

“We continue to see scam artists use the pandemic to steal money and information from honest taxpayers in a time of crisis,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We provide this list to alert taxpayers about common scams that fraudsters use against their victims. At the IRS, we are dedicated to stopping these criminals, but it’s up to all of us to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and our families.”

Taxpayers are encouraged to review the “Dirty Dozen: list in a special section on IRS.gov and should be alert to these scams during tax filing season and throughout the year.

Economic Impact Payment theft

A continuing threat to individuals is from identity thieves who try to steal Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), also known as stimulus payments. Most eligible people will get their payments automatically from the IRS. Taxpayers should watch out for these tell-tale signs of a scam:

  • Any text messages, random incoming phone calls or emails inquiring about bank account information or requesting recipients to click a link or verify data should be considered suspicious and deleted without opening.
  • Be alert to mailbox theft. Frequently check mail and report suspected mail losses to Postal Inspectors.
  • Don’t fall for stimulus check scams. The IRS won’t initiate contact by phone, email, text or social media asking for Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to Economic Impact Payments.

Taxpayers should remember that the IRS website, IRS.gov, is the agency’s official website for information on payments, refunds and other tax information.

Unemployment fraud leading to inaccurate taxpayer 1099-Gs

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many taxpayers lost their jobs and received unemployment compensation from their state. However, scammers also took advantage of the pandemic by filing fraudulent claims for unemployment compensation using stolen personal information of individuals who had not filed claims. Payments made on these fraudulent claims went to the identity thieves.

The IRS reminds taxpayers to be on the lookout for receiving a Form 1099-G reporting unemployment compensation that they didn’t receive. For people in this situation, the IRS urges them to contact their appropriate state agency for a corrected form. If a corrected form cannot be obtained so that a taxpayer can file a timely tax return, taxpayers should complete their return claiming only the unemployment compensation and other income they actually received. See Identity Theft and Unemployment Benefits for tax details and DOL.gov/fraud for state-by-state reporting information.

Additional protection to help protect taxpayers

IRS makes IP PINs available to all taxpayers – adding another layer of security

To help taxpayers avoid identity theft, the IRS this year made its Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) program available to all taxpayers. Previously it was available only to victims of ID theft or taxpayers in certain states. The IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to the taxpayer and to the IRS. It helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns using a taxpayer’s personally identifiable information.

Using an IP PIN is, in essence, a way to lock a tax account. The IP PIN serves as the key to opening that account. Electronic returns that do not contain the correct IP PIN will be rejected and paper returns will go through additional scrutiny for fraud.

Reducing fraud

The IRS and its Security Summit partners in the states and the private-sector tax community have made changes to help reduce identity theft-related refund fraud that are noticeable to the average person filing a return:

  • Tax software providers agreed to strengthen password protocols. This is the first line of defense for these companies to make sure their products are secure.
  • State tax agencies began asking for taxpayers’ driver’s license numbers as another way for people to prove their identities.
  • The IRS limited the number of tax refunds going to financial accounts or addresses.
  • The IRS masked personal information from tax transcripts.

Multi-factor authentication can help

It is important for taxpayers filing in 2021 to know that online tax software products available to both taxpayers and tax professionals will contain options for multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication allows users to better protect online accounts. One way this is accomplished is by requiring a security code sent to a mobile phone in addition to the username and password used to access the account.

The IRS and its Security Summit partners have formed an information sharing center that allows them to quickly identify emerging scams and react to protect taxpayers. The Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Information Sharing and Analysis Center PDF is now operational.

Also, check out our recent A Closer Look column for more on how to be vigilant about tax scams. Visit Identity Theft Central and Tax Fraud Alerts for more information on how to protect against or report identity theft or fraud.