IRS tax refund scam tips

It’s tax time. As you prepare your taxes or eagerly await any refunds, it’s also time to be aware of tax scams. These scams include phishing emails, texts or phone calls that may warn of a delay with your return, promise a bigger refund or offer you a “helpful downloadable document.” These scams are designed to steal your refund, bank account information or identity by compelling you to provide your private information to the scammer.

The IRS estimates that it paid $5.2 billion in fraudulent refunds as a result of identity theft last year. This year, in light of recent data breaches, individuals are urged to be especially careful. New scams offer credit monitoring services due to a breach or claim to be from popular tax software providers. The IRS has provided a list of The Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2015 to help keep us up to date on the latest scams.

In addition, be particularly aware of common tax season phishing emails like these:

  • You’re owed a refund and need to forward your bank account information for the refund deposit. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, send it to
  • Exciting offers or refunds for participating in an “IRS Survey.” This fake survey is actually used to acquire private and confidential information that is used to steal your identity.
  • Threats of fines or jail time for not making an immediate payment, or responding to the email. If you receive an intimidating email like this and even believe you might owe on taxes, contact your local IRS office and report the threatening email.
  • Documents or tools for tax preparation (e.g. “new changes in the tax law,” a tax calculator, etc.). Those “helpful” documents mentioned earlier may, in fact, be malicious files intended to infect your computer. Remember not all unsolicited email is legitimate. If you need current tax information, go to the IRS website or consult with a tax professional.

Scams don’t stop with phishing emails. Here are some helpful tips if you get calls or texts from someone pretending to be from the IRS:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at gov.
  • If phone scammers target you, also contact the Federal Trade Commission. Use their FTC Complaint Assistantto report the scam, and include “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, identity theft doesn’t stop at tax season so exercise your “spidey sense” with any email, unsolicited text or call asking for your personal information.


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