The Internal Revenue Service has issued a consumer alert providing taxpayers with tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information.

They may know a lot about you

These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

‘Shake-down calls’

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues.

“The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business,” Koskinen said.

Five tell-tale signs

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Below are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

— Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.

— Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

— Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

— Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

— Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

What you should do

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

— If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.

— If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484 or

— You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant (; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

It’s also important to remember the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.

For more information on reporting tax scams, go to and type “scam” in the search box.