Can't get through to the IRS blues.
March 11, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

The IRS says they can't identify me and therefore cannot send me my tax refund. The web verification process doesn't work and every phone number I've found for them just gives an automated "we cannot handle your call right now" and hangs up - no option to wait on hold. Please see extended explanation for more details, thanks.

I mailed in my tax forms and W-2 on January 28th 2015. I have very simple taxes so I used form 1080EZ. Typed all the info into a PDF of the form, printed it, signed and dated in ink, attached W2 and mailed it in.

I'm owed a refund and I filled in the direct deposit info on the form for that. Then on March 1st I got a letter from the IRS addressed to both myself & a female name that I don't recognize - I'm single and never been married.

The letter said they could not verify my identity. Odd, since I've lived at the same address for 9 years, had the same bank info, no refund problems previous years, etc.

The letter had 2 options - verify by web site - (which I Googled, and seems legit) or phone - 1-800-830-5084.

I went through the web site process, it asked standard credit-report type questions but then abruptly ended with "we cannot verify your identity". Re-trying it just skips right to "we cannot verify your identity" again.

So I tried calling the 800 number provided. It simply says "due to extremely high call volume we cannot handle your call at this time" - and hangs up. No option to wait on hold. It does this every time, regardless of time of day, I tried 10am on a Monday, many other days around 5pm, mid-day, etc.. The letter specifies they're open Monday-Friday 7am-7pm (does not say which time zone) but it just hangs up every single time.

I've Googled up a couple different phone numbers but those seem to do the same thing for the most part. On one I did get through to a person but was just told "wrong department" and they hung up.

There is no address given in the letter to write to, and it says I need to contact them within 30 days either by the web page or phone. Yes this seems to be impossible, and frankly I want my money. It's more than my take-home pay from one paycheck, and to me that's a lot of money.

I also tried to run the free online annual credit report since this is all setting off alarm bells, but I ran it less than a year ago, last August - everything was fine at that time and I can't run it again until a year has passed.
posted by NoAccount to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The IRS has physical offices in various cities. Perhaps you'd have more luck in person?
posted by Jacqueline at 3:26 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you taken a gander at your forms to see if you filled out your SSN incorrectly? I did that last year and my God was it hell to fix.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:31 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sounds suspiciously similar (including the inclusion of an unknown-to-you spouse's name) to the "identity theft scam" detailed here, from 2014. The linked article includes another IRS number ((800) 908-4490) for the "Identity Protection Specialized Unit" which may be worth trying. I found the link — and others that I only skimmed — simply by Googling the toll-free number from your original post.
posted by Mothlight at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Apologies; I see that you specified that you Googled similar numbers, probably including this one. But it does seem like you might be caught up in a similar scam.
posted by Mothlight at 3:36 PM on March 11, 2015

It sounds like it could be an identity theft issue. You said that you used your annual free credit report already, but you are actually entitled to three free credits reports a year - one from each of the major credit reporting companies. So, if you checked (for example) your Experian credit report a month ago but haven't checked your Transunion report for 12 months, you can check the Transunion one now. More on what to do if your identity is stolen here.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:09 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dude, I almost posted this EXACT SAME QUESTION today. I'm in the same situation as you, exactly. Weird name associated with mine, they filed with my SSN before I could, no refund yet, can't get an answer on any phone number :/.

I'd suggest also contacting your State Rep and alerting your Attorney General as well. I did that yesterday and haven't heard anything back but it can't hurt.

Good luck. I feel your pain.
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:23 PM on March 11, 2015

I searched the IRS website for "" and found some info at the bottom of this page:

Issue: Practitioners contacted their local stakeholder liaison with concerns that Taxpayer Protection Program’s Letters 4883C and 5071C and related procedures were scams. Upon calling the telephone number provided, taxpayers were asked in-depth financial and personal questions not normally asked by IRS representatives and told to fax their tax returns for processing. Practitioners were also suspicious of the website provided.

Response: has been updated with information on this process. A variety of search criteria is available including idverify,, identity verification, etc. The search result contains a link to the "Understanding your 5071C Letter" landing page which provides a link to our secure Identity Verification Service website, Search Report Phishing on to view the chart “What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication.”

And here:

Understanding Your 5071C Letter

This letter tells you that the IRS needs more information to verify your identity in order to process your tax return accurately. The contact information below is only for taxpayers who received Letter 5071C.

Why are we contacting you?

We received your federal income tax return; however, in order to process it, we need more information to verify your identity. The letter you received provides two options for responding. Both options enable you to verify your identity with us so we can continue processing your tax return.

This contact information is only for taxpayers who received Letter 5071C. The toll-free number and website are for identity verification only. No other tax-related information, including refund status, is available.

What is involved in this process?

We will continue processing your tax return once we verify your identity. Follow the identity verification described under "What should you do?" below to provide us with the necessary information.

What should you do?

Use our secure Identity Verification Service website It's quick and secure. To complete the entries, you will need to have a copy of your prior year tax return and your most recently filed tax return.
If you cannot use the Idverify website, you can call us using the toll-free Identity Verification telephone number provided in your letter. Again, you will need to have a copy of your prior year tax return and your most recently filed tax return.
If you did not file the return in question, you can use either option to notify us.

It seems like a legit site but I'd certainly be leery anyway. Seconding trying to visit a local IRS office in person. It'll probably take a chunk of a day but that's less time than it'd take to sort out identity theft. Good luck!
posted by Beti at 5:31 PM on March 11, 2015

This does sound like there may be fraud involved. Definitely try the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit 1-800-908-4490. You can try your local IRS office as well. The IRS phones and offices will be busy this month.

Whichever credit report company you used to get your report, there are two others you can check. Go through the official site.
posted by zennie at 6:51 PM on March 11, 2015

I'm also told that one way to get the IRS's attention is to call your Senator's office. They do follow up, and federal agencies generally jump to assist a Congressional request.
posted by suelac at 8:41 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

We've got this monstrous huge IRS center here in Austin, not sure if it's a regional thing or what but it's big. A friend of mine had gotten spun in the cogs of the IRS machine in some fashion, he reached to a woman who is now in private practice CPA but used to work for IRS and had people on the inside, got his problem turned into no problem pretty easily, though it cost him a few bucks. Just a thought.

I also like the idea of contacting your congressman and/or senator with an SOS, sure can't hurt you.

Good luck!
posted by dancestoblue at 11:39 PM on March 11, 2015

It does sound like identity fraud -- I'd start at your local office (at the national level they have, charmingly, picked this year to severely cut back on personnel and hours). It miiiight be worth it to call the IRS' main number (1-800-829-1040), and see if you can get a person to talk to, but I really like the idea of going through a senator or state rep.
posted by kalimac at 6:54 AM on March 12, 2015

Best answer: Former IRS Tax Examiner. This opinion is my own and not that of the Service.

Based on the description of the letter you received in this AskMe I do not believe that this letter was either manually or automatically generated by the IRS.

I think that your best course of action is to take the letter, yourself, and some forms of state-issued photo identification and go to the local IRS office closets to you and speak with someone in person about your situation. You will die of old age trying to get through on the 800 number.

When I worked at the IRS Philadelphia Service Center in Individual Master File (IMF) Adjustments our work area was next to Technical, the area tasked with handling congressional inquires made on the behalf of taxpayers by their federal representatives.

You can indeed have your federal representative open a congressional inquiry on your behalf, but it will introduce a delay while you give your rep authorization to discuss your case with the IRS and while you explain your case to your rep. I think you would better off dealing with the IRS directly at the moment. In my opinion I don’t think the process of investigating your situation would proceed any faster by starting a CINQ.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I also tried to run the free online annual credit report since this is all setting off alarm bells, but I ran it less than a year ago, last August - everything was fine at that time and I can't run it again until a year has passed.

Yes, you can run another free report, using another one of the three

Here's an article about how best to use the Free Credit Report, with the link.

Poor legislation allowed the free credit report to be abused. If it had been set up through the FTC instead of being a .com easily confused with for profit and scam organizations that come up first in a Google search. Chalk up another win for the US Chamber of Commerce and loss for the consumer. But we all have rights to THREE credit reports per year.

This sounds like a scam, check with the IRS and check your credit report now and in a couple of months.
posted by readery at 9:30 AM on March 12, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who replied.

From the comments and further research I'm convinced that the letter, web site and phone # are all legit.

Could certainly be identity theft that kicked this all off, not sure yet but it does seem likely.

I did check the return and the SSN and other info is correct.

Unfortunately I did all 3 credit checks back in August - in retrospect I should have just done one and staggered them out, always having 1 available, but it didn't occur to me at the time. I'll do that in the future - for now I can't run them (for free anyway) until August.

Part of the issue getting through to the IRS seems to be weather related, they've had a lot of snow days. Partly it's also budget cuts, fewer people to work the phones, and of course it's the height of tax season.

I'm trying the other phone numbers, re-trying the web site from another browser and will go to an IRS office in person if it comes to that (have to burn one of my precious few paid days off for that, uhg.).
posted by NoAccount at 5:00 PM on March 12, 2015

The reason I thought that the letter might not be a legitimate IRS letter was that you stated that there was no return address to which to respond. An IRS letter should have the address of the service center or local office in the top left corner, and "In Reply to:" with a string of numbers (which would be an employee or department ID number) and "Letter nnnnC" (where nnnnC is the letter number, 474C, 1290C, for example) in the top right. When in doubt you could always write to the IRS service center that handles returns for your state.

Good luck, I hope you can get through on the phone and that you don't have to burn one of your paid days off.
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:23 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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