7 tips to spot a fake IRS letter ( and what do about it).

by | Mar 20, 2024

Every year, the IRS sends out millions of letters to taxpayers, but unfortunately, scammers also send out millions of letters every year. It can be difficult to determine if the letter you just received is real or fake. However, here are seven tips that can help you determine if you’re dealing with a fake IRS letter:

1. Questionable Tax Debt:

If you don’t owe any money to the IRS, then the letter is likely a scam. Real IRS letters inform you of the balance owed and provide payment options, without using aggressive collection tactics.

2. Missing IRS Logo and Correct Taxpayer Information:

Genuine IRS letters always display the IRS logo on the top left. Additionally, they include the notice name, notice date, and your taxpayer identification number. Real letters often contain a web link to the IRS website for further information.

3. Grammatical Errors or Odd Wording:

Fake IRS letters may contain spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or strange sentence structure. Proper grammar and spelling are typically used in genuine IRS letters.

4. Incorrect Language:

Scam letters may use phrases like “distraint warrant,” “notice of warranted lien,” or threats of imminent seizure and forfeiture. The IRS does not use these phrases.

5. Threatening Demands for Immediate Payment:

Scammers frequently employ fear tactics and demand immediate payment. However, the IRS always provides at least a 30-day notice before taking collection actions, except for specific cases such as unpaid payroll taxes.

6. Irregular Payment Requests:

Payments to the IRS should be made to the Department of the Treasury. Scammers may request payments to other entities or unusual methods such as gift cards or wire transfers. The IRS does not offer prizes as incentives for payment.

7. Lacking an Official IRS Letter Envelope:

Genuine IRS letters come in official envelopes with the department’s name, addresses, and the phrase “Official Business Penalty for Private Use.” They often feature a window displaying your name and address.

If you are uncertain about the authenticity of the letter, contact the IRS directly. Do not use the phone number provided in the letter as it may also be fake. Call the IRS’s main phone number:

  • Individuals: (800) 829-1040
  • Businesses: (800)-829-4933
  • Non-profits: (877) 829-5500

Beware of long hold times when calling the IRS. Immediate answers from a phone number on a suspicious letter are likely a red flag.

It’s important to note that some IRS scam letters come from scam artists attempting to steal money. These letters often threaten severe consequences and direct victims to call a specified number. The person on the other end of the line pretends to be from the IRS and continues the scare tactics. Do not be pressured into making immediate payments during these calls.

There are also fake IRS letters from unscrupulous tax debt relief companies. These marketing letters exploit public records of tax liens and may use different agency names. Their aim is to convince you to call and sign up for their services, often resulting in overcharging and subpar assistance.

If you receive a fake letter from the IRS, do not respond or make any payments. Report the letter by emailing a copy to [email protected] to help the IRS track down the scammers.

Remember, the IRS primarily contacts taxpayers through mail. They do not reach out via email, social media, or text. While occasional phone calls may occur, they are typically preceded by a mailed letter. Stay vigilant and protect yourself from scams by carefully examining any communication you receive from the IRS.