Avoiding “IRS” Scams

If you’re like most people, the thought of the IRS coming after you scares the bejesus out of you. Here you are, a lonely taxpayer, finding yourself with the full force of the IRS and its estimated $11 billion annual budget coming after you.

You hear stories of people going to jail for failure to correctly pay their taxes – which is possible, but requires much more than missing a back payment or miscalculating taxes owed. These stories frighten us into believing we should drop everything and respond immediately when someone claiming to be from the big bad IRS comes calling. This is precisely why scam artists will reach out to you under the guise of the IRS.

It Can Happen Anytime

We recently had a client receive a call from someone purporting to be from the IRS, telling her she owes back taxes. She was told she needed to pay the tax right away or be subject to penalties and interest. Conveniently, the “IRS agent” was able to take her payment right there over the phone – to help her avoid those late-payment penalties. All she needed to do was give her bank information over the phone and he could process the payment on the spot.

Fortunately our client listened to her gut instinct telling her something just wasn’t right and hung up the phone without giving any of her information. She reached out to us and realized it was a phishing scam, not a legitimate IRS caller.

You may think to be on your guard now, during tax filing season, but these scammers work all year long. They may call, email or reach out through other means any time during the year.

Protect Yourself

There are a couple things you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Know that the IRS will only initially reach out to you about a tax issue via a good, old-fashioned letter. If someone reaches out to you through ANY other means about an issue you’re unaware of and asks for personal information, it’s a scam!
  2. If you’re uncertain whether there is a legitimate issue, you can check the status of your return via the IRS’s online tool. You can learn more about that tool here. If there is a legitimate issue, you can call the IRS directly and resolve it. The safest course is to only provide personal information when you have initiated the contact, and to a number that you know is the actual IRS phone number.

Let Us Help

If you ever have questions, reach out to your BDF Wealth Management Team. We’re always here to help.


Mark Durrenberger, CFP®, ChFC®, EA is a Senior Advisor at BDF. Mark has been in the financial industry since 2010 and received both his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University.