Inside the FBI: FBI Cautions Consumers About Tax-Related Crimes

March 20, 2017

The FBI receives hundreds of complaints of tax-related fraud during this time of year as criminals continue to use several different ways to scam you and the IRS, using your name.

Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: The FBI receives hundreds of complaints of tax-related fraud during this time of year.

I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau, and you’re listening to Inside the FBI.

Criminals are using several different ways to scam you and the IRS, using your name.

David Farquhar: The point of all of them is to get money.

Halpern: One scam involves unsolicited phone calls in which the criminal claims to be from the IRS and demands you pay taxes that you don’t owe. David Farquhar is a unit chief in the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section.

Farquhar: They’ll create a sense of urgency, and they’ll be very intimidating, and they’ll tell you that you need to pay, and it’ll cost you more, and they’ll be all these penalties…

Halpern: If this happens to you, resist the pressure to act quickly. Instead, contact the IRS directly through an alternate way.

Another tax-related scam involves e-mails that contain a link appearing to be from the IRS. Criminals use correct information in those e-mails to make them look as real as possible—but other information can send you right into their trap.

Farquhar: So the trick is, don’t be deceived if some of it is real information but then other parts of it are not real information.

Halpern: If the e-mail or person on the other end of a call insists that you use a particular method of payment, it’s a red flag that you’re likely being scammed.

Farquhar: A new wrinkle on it is now they are accepting gift cards—iTunes gift cards and other different types of gift cards. And what most people don’t realize is that there is a secondary market for gift cards, so the criminals are then easily able to convert a bunch of gift cards into money.

Halpern: The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, received nearly 400 complaints about the gift card twist in 2016. That’s a significant jump compared to the year before, when IC3 received only five complaints about it.

The IC3 also receives an uptick in complaints related to identify theft and fraudulent tax returns during this time of year. This is referred to as stolen identity refund fraud, or SIRF.

Farquhar: It’s a little bit of a race between the criminals and the rest of us as to who will file whose taxes first.

Halpern: Scammers use your personally identifiable information, or PII, to file your taxes in order to receive an inflated return. They could also use corrupt tax preparation companies or online tax software to file the fake returns in your name.

Farquhar: They can generally do that knowing only a little bit of your information—but really without your knowledge or your input or anything to do with you. So you would only know that that happened after you try to file your own taxes.  

Halpern: If you’re a victim of SIRF, contact your local FBI and IRS field offices.

If you’re a victim of the IRS impersonation scam, report it at

And finally, if you receive an e-mail fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS, file a complaint to the IC3 at That site will also have additional information about how you can prevent becoming a victim of these types of tax-related frauds.

I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau. Thanks for listening to Inside the FBI.

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