Ask Amy: $1.2K overpayment? How to know if a letter from the IRS is legit

A letter about a potential IRS refund had one viewer on high alert. She sent that letter to the KPRC 2 Investigates team to ask if it was legit. We have what you should look for to verify a letter from the IRS. We get a lot of questions from viewers and often will share it with you, so you know what to look for it if happens to you.

Viewer wants to know if the IRS letter she got in the mail is real

Barbara just got a letter that said it was from the IRS about a payment she made two years ago. She assumed it was a scam but then sent it to us to check it out. The letter said she overpaid the IRS by $1,200. The letter asks if she was paying a bill she received, could she send a copy of the bill to them so they can identify the tax period.

A viewer sent a suspected IRS scam letter to KPRC 2 Investigates for verification. We have what you should look for if you get an IRS letter like this in the mail. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

It says the account was paid in full before receiving the payment. She could get a refund.

We sent the letter to several contacts at the IRS. We heard back from someone in the criminal investigation unit who said the letter appears to be real.

The IRS says mail is the main way they will contact you

The IRS website says they will send notices for the following reasons:

  • You have a balance due
  • You are due a refund
  • They need to verify your identity
  • change your return
  • notify you of delays in processing a return

How to know if a letter from the IRS is real

The IRS says every IRS letter will show an “ltr” number on the top or bottom right - hand corner of the letter.

You should also see the IRS logo and address. In most cases, your letter will have a name and title of someone at the IRS. But again, a scammer could preproduce a letter that looks real.

When in doubt, go straight to the IRS website and call the contact number there.

Barbara thought it was odd that she was getting a letter about a payment made in 2021 but remember, the IRS has had massive delays since Covid so this could just be them working through some of the issues flagged in the past.

The IRS has been dealing with staffing shortages for years. As they work to catch up, some taxpayers may get letters with questions about previous returns. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The IRS says if you think a letter is a scam, first call them. If you are the victim of a scam let the IRS know.

The IRS did recently warn about a scam involving fake letters

Here’s what the IRS warning says: The new scheme involves a mailing coming in a cardboard envelope from a delivery service. The enclosed letter includes the IRS masthead and wording that the notice is “in relation to your unclaimed refund.”

Like many scams, the letter includes contact information and a phone number that do not belong to the IRS. But it also seeks a variety of sensitive personal information from taxpayers – including detailed pictures of driver’s licenses – that can be used to by identity thieves to try obtaining a tax refund and other sensitive financial information.

If you ever have a question like this, send it to the KPRC 2 Investigates team and we will work to find an answer!

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.