IRS and tax scams target thousands of people during the tax season, with losses totaling up to millions of dollars and personal identities each year. Scammers use phones, email, and regular mail to devise scams that are centered on the topic of taxes to trick individuals, payroll and tax professionals, and even businesses.
Now is a prime time to read up on the latest tactics criminals are using to steal what belongs to you. We’ve put together this blog to list recent tax season scams and how to spot the red flags, to help you avoid becoming a victim.
If you read or hear any of the following, it’s a sign that you’re being targeted for a scam.
“It’s not necessary for us to sign the tax return we prepared for you”
- By law, tax professionals must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and must sign a tax return prepared for you. Attempting to avoid signing your tax return is a sure fire way of spotting a “Ghost Preparer” who wants to charge you a fee and then leave you hanging. Regardless of who prepares your return, you should review it carefully and ask questions about anything that’s not clear before signing.
“Click on the link to view your tax return”
- Although the IRS does provide tax transcripts, they never send them without being requested, especially not via email or any other digital format. Beware any emails or texts that seem to be from the IRS with instructions to download attachments or click on links. If you need your tax transcripts, request it from the IRS directly, and wait for them to be mailed to you.
“We’re calling from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, we need information to process your large tax refund”
- The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an actual IRS organization that assists taxpayers with IRS issues. However, they wont contact you out of the blue to “help” you receive a huge tax return. Criminals make it seem as if they are calling from a TAS office, and tell victims that they are entitled to a large tax refund but they need to provide their Social Security number or other sensitive information.
“We’ll cancel your Social Security Number and you’ll be arrested for tax avoidance”
- Criminals have the ability to spoof caller IDs and make it seem as if they are the IRS or law enforcement. However, the IRS and law enforcement does not make urgent or threatening calls or request sensitive information over the phone. The IRS also does not have the ability to arrest you, revoke your driver’s license or social security number.
“We can settle your debts to the IRS for pennies-on-the-dollar”
- Beware of individuals that claim their affordable services are needed to settle with the IRS, or that there is a limited window of time to resolve tax debts through the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program. These promoters are often referred to as “OIC Mills.” They contort the legitimate IRS program into something it’s not to deceive people into paying excessive fees.
“We recalculated your refund, just fill out this form to claim it”
- Often times criminals send emails with the IRS logo to deceive people into thinking they’re legitimate. With subject lines such as “Recalculate Tax Refund” or “Claim your Refund Now”, its easy to see how people might turn over their sensitive information such as Social Security Numbers, addresses, and birthdates. The IRS wont attempt to reach you via email, so its safe to trash these types of emails.
Other Tips to Avoid Scammers
Keep these tips in mind during tax season to avoid scammers.
- The IRS never calls to demand immediate payment using payment methods such as a prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfer. The IRS will first mail a bill to a taxpayer that owes taxes.
- The IRS does not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Taxpayers have the opportunity to question or appeal the amount of taxes owed. The IRS will never demand that taxes be paid immediately.
- Hang up if someone calls you regarding your tax return.
- The IRS will only ever contact you via mail, be suspicious of phone calls or emails claiming to be from the IRS.
- The official IRS website uses a .gov address. Do not click links from or enter information on sites such as IRS.org, IRS.com, or IRS.net.
If you think you might owe the IRS money
- View tax account information online at IRS.gov to see the actual amount owed. Taxpayers can also review their payment options.
- Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees are available to help.
How to Report Tax Season Scams
Great, so you spotted a suspicious email, call or website trying to steal your information or money. Here are some next steps you can take to help others avoid becoming victims.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call at IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.
- Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For more information regarding tax season scams, review this resource from the IRS: