Scam artists often pretend to be the IRS. The scammers impersonate the IRS to either intimidate someone into sending them a payment or to lure a person into providing personal information with the goal of stealing their identity. Here are some general rules to help you determine if it is the “real IRS” contacting you.

Never through email

The IRS will never initiate contact with you using email. A common scammer trick is to send emails to people using accounts and graphics that look identical to the IRS logo and website. These emails may threaten fines or imprisonment if you do not pay them or promise additional refunds or tax credits if you send money to them. Often the email contains links to a website that looks identical to the IRS website. Clicking on any links may also trigger the installation of virus programs on your computer. So, as a general rule, the IRS will almost never initiate communication via email, expect a letter via mail instead.

Proper phone etiquette

In most cases, the IRS will initiate contact with you via mail. However, occasionally they will call you, usually only after corresponding via mail. To determine if you are speaking to a real IRS representative, play close attention to the caller’s phone etiquette. The real IRS will not demand payment, threaten arrest, deportation or lawsuits. Their tone should not be aggressive, hostile or threatening.

Ask for credentials

Ask the person for their credentials. Every IRS agent is able to produce two forms of credentials: a pocket commission card and a personal identity verification card issued by the Department of Homeland Security, also called an HSPD-12.