IRS Warns Taxpayers and Tax Pros to Watch Out for Emerging Scams

The Internal Revenue Service regularly reminds taxpayers to stay alert against scams during the tax filing season and throughout the year. Identity thieves use news events, including tragedies, to try to trick taxpayers.

But it’s not only taxpayers who need to stay on alert; tax professionals also need to keep their eyes open to scammers. In another common but less talked about tax season scam, identity thieves will pose as a new potential client to tax professionals by email or over the phone in hopes of obtaining access to company systems. Ultimately, successful attempts to get this information mean fraudsters can try filing fake tax returns with the goal of getting a refund.

“Identity thieves are relentless and use a variety of techniques. As Tax Security Awareness Week concludes, we urge people to be careful with their personal information and be wary of email and text scams,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “With people anxious to receive the latest information about a refund or other issues during tax season, scammers will regularly pose as the IRS, a state tax agency, or others in the tax industry. People should be incredibly wary about unexpected messages that can be an elaborate trap by scam artists, especially during filing season.”

With the tax season fast approaching, taxpayers, as well as tax professionals, need to take extra steps to protect their financial and tax information. Identity thieves have found new and more elaborate ways to obtain sensitive taxpayer information in hopes of stealing their financial information.

These messages arrive in many ways, including unsolicited texts, emails, or even phone calls to lure unsuspecting victims to provide valuable personal and financial information that can lead to identity theft. These include:

  • Phishing: This is an email sent by fraudsters claiming to come from the IRS or another legitimate organization, including state tax organizations or a financial firm. The email lures the victims into the scam in a variety of ways, such as tempting victims with a phony tax refund or frightening them with false legal/criminal charges for tax fraud.
  • Smishing: This is a text or smartphone SMS message that uses the same technique as phishing. Scammers often use alarming language like, “Your account has now been put on hold,” or “Unusual Activity Report” with a bogus “Solutions” link to restore the recipient’s account. Unexpected tax refunds are another potential target for scam artists.

The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail, which means taxpayers shouldn’t be getting an unexpected message by email, text, or social media regarding a bill or tax refund.

The IRS reminds taxpayers and others never to click on any unsolicited communication claiming to be the IRS or others because it may surreptitiously load malware. It may also be a way for malicious hackers to load ransomware that keeps the legitimate user from accessing their system and files.

–Michael Rozbruch

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