Scams in which con artists impersonate IRS personnel by phone, email or letter either to get money or to steal personally identifying information (PII) have become so widespread that they’ve affected how the IRS works, delaying legitimate refunds to many taxpayers.

We’ll discuss the various types of scams in a moment, but we want to put this up front: the IRS will never contact you unsolicited by telephone, email or social media, and if you get a message via those routes claiming to be from the IRS, it is a scam, and you should never supply people contacting you this way with your social security number or any passwords or PINs. The IRS does contact people via surface mail, but the correspondence it sends will be in a number of pre-defined formats, so you can easily tell if a letter is real or not. If you have any questions about a message that claims to be from the IRS, contact them directly via the numbers or addresses listed on the agency’s website; do not reply to the message directly, as that may just pull you into correspondence with a scam artist.

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IRS scams 2017: What you need to know now