Common Tax Scams
Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll, and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam.
Tax Season is Prime Time for Phone Scams
With the new tax season starting, the IRS reminded taxpayers to be aware that criminals continue to make aggressive calls posing as IRS agents in hopes of stealing taxpayer money or personal information.
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. The scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request if the phone isn't answered.
Social Security Number Scam
In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. It’s yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails.
Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN. If taxpayers receive a call threatening to suspend their SSN for an unpaid tax bill, they should just hang up. Taxpayers should not give out sensitive information over the phone unless they are positive they know the caller is legitimate. When in doubt –hang up. Here are some telltale signs of this scam. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments.
- Ask a taxpayer to make a payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
IRS Impersonation Email Scam
The IRS and its Security Summit partners today warned taxpayers and tax professionals about a new IRS impersonation scam campaign spreading nationally on email. The email subject line may vary, but recent examples use the phrase "Automatic Income Tax Reminder" or "Electronic Tax Return Reminder." The emails have links that show an IRS.gov-like website with details pretending to be about the taxpayer's refund, electronic return, or tax account. The emails contain a "temporary password" or "one-time password" to "access" the files to submit the refund. But when taxpayers try to access these, it turns out to be a malicious file.
Don't Be a Victim of a "Ghost" Tax Return Preparer
The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers. A ghost preparer is someone who doesn't sign tax returns they prepare. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.