Scam: The IRS has filed a lawsuit against you!

Scam: The IRS has filed a lawsuit against you!
The "You Owe Taxes" Scam

The latest scam that criminals are using involving the IRS starts with a phone call that you receive from someone who claims to be an IRS agent, and that you owe taxes.  The Internal Revenue Service is warning consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. There is also a similar scam, in which the recording says the "IRS has filed a lawsuit against you"

Here are the keys to identifying the scam:

  1. You receive a call from an "agent" someone claiming to be an IRS agent.
  2. The caller knows some personal information about you, such as your name, address, phone number and the last 4 digits of your ssn (social security number).
  3. The fake agent claims to be collecting taxes and then walks you through payment instructions, using debit cards, wire money transfers, such as Western Union Moneygrams.
  4. If you refuse to pay, the fake agent then threatens you with arrest or deportation.

Here are some warning signs and red flags that this is a scam:

  1. The IRS would never call you first on the phone.  They would send you a letter first. Here is what the IRS says, word for word:
    "REMEMBER: The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Recognizing these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim."
  2. The fake agent uses a very common name, like John Smith, Bob Jones, etc. and provides a (fake) badge number.
  3. The fake agent knows the last 4 digits of your social security number, but NOTthe entire number. If you asked a real IRS agent, they could tell you your entire ssn.
  4. The caller ID information appears to be from the IRS, but this is easily faked.
  5. They send fake followup emails.
  6. They make call a second time, claiming to be from the police or department of motor vehicles, again with a fake caller ID that looks like it is from that agency.
  7. Government officials would NEVER demand payment by debit card or wire transfers.


Click here for examples of phone numbers the scammers have used and to listen to actual recordings of the scammers

More Information About the IRS Phone Scam

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling. Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail

Other characteristics of this scam include:
Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:

  1. If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue - if there really is such an issue.
  2. If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  3. If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their 'FTC Complaint Assistant' at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

 The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website,

Other Recommendations

  • Hang up on the call.  Ignore their calls and emails.  The IRS would send you an official letter in the mail.
  • Only open email or IM attachments that come from a trusted source and that are expected
  • Use an anti-virus/anti-spam package (we recommend Norton 360 or Norton Internet Security scan all attachments prior to opening. Click here to see Norton 360 2013 on .
  • Delete the messages without opening any attachments
  • Do not click on links in emails that come from people you do not know and trust, even if it looks like it comes from a company you know.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date
  • Keep your operating system up to date with current security patches. Click here for an article that describes how to do this.

And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive.  We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!




For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.

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