Everyone knows that contact by the IRS is something to be taken seriously. It’s always in your best interest to respond promptly to any communication from the IRS to ensure that you remain on their good side.

But in a world filled with scam artists and fraudulent individuals doing everything they can to access your financial information and other data, how do you identify a legitimate IRS communication from a fake? It’s not always as easy as you think. Fraudsters have become increasingly more sophisticated in making their false communications look like the real thing.

We’ve put together this short guide to help you identify real IRS communications and sort them from the fakes.

How the IRS Contacts You

The most common way the IRS contacts taxpayers is through the mail, specifically the US Postal Service. They will only contact you via phone call if you have a tax bill that’s overdue, or to tour a business that’s being audited or investigated.

In these cases, the phone or in-person contact is almost always preceded by contact via mail.

What the IRS Won’t Do

The IRS never demands that you pay immediately without verifying the legitimacy of the tax bill, and will also never demand that you pay using a specific payment method. They’ll certainly never ask you for your credit card number over the phone.

Fraudsters often use scare tactics, threatening to call the police or immigration officials if you don’t pay them immediately. But the IRS is unable to affect your immigration status or revoke documents like your driver’s license.

Visits from the IRS

If you do receive an in-person visit from the IRS, the representative will always have two forms of certified, official identification with them. The first is a pocket commission, and the second is something known as an HSPD-12 card that’s standard among federal employees.

Paying the IRS

There is only ever one recipient that you will pay for IRS tax debts—the US Treasury. Anyone asking you to make out a check to a different source does not represent the IRS.

When in Doubt, Contact the IRS Directly

If you’re not sure whether a communication came from the IRS, simply contact the IRS directly. Contact information can be found on their site. If you suspect a phone scam, you can call their IRS Impersonation Reporting line at 800-366-4484.

You can also report suspected fake emails to [email protected].