IRS impersonation scams involve scammers targeting American taxpayers by pretending to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collection officers.[1] The scammers operate by placing disturbing official-sounding calls to unsuspecting citizens, threatening them with arrest and frozen assets if thousands of dollars are not paid immediately.[2] According to the IRS, over 1,029,601 Americans have received threatening calls, and $29,100,604 has been reported lost to these call scams as of March, 2016.[3] The problem has been assigned to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.[4]

The scammers often request payment in the form of gift cards such as Google Play or iTunes cards, wire transfer, MoneyGram, or credit card.[5]

As of September 2017, several people from India have been arrested for impersonating IRS employees.[6]


The United Kingdom[edit]

Variations on this scam have targeted British taxpayers, pretending to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Sometimes the scammers use telephone calls,[7] sometimes SMS text messages, and sometimes emails.[8] Versions include:

  • The scammers threaten a lawsuit by HMRC to recover money allegedly owed.[7][9]
  • The scammers tell people that they are due a tax rebate, and use this to trick them into disclosing their account and personal details.[8]


Another variation similarly targets Canadians by impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency and utilizing aggressive fear tactics, with at least 60,000 Canadian residents filing complaints from 2013-2018.[10]

Response by companies[edit]

In response to a modus operandi by scammers where they coax victims into buying prepaid cards or gift cards for online services, companies such as Apple, along with the Federal Trade Commission, have posted advisories warning over the illicit use of gift cards by scammers.[11][12] Retailers and supermarkets have also followed suit by putting up similar warnings on prepaid and gift card sections.[13]