Industry Trends

Tax Season=Tax Scams, Prepare Yourself

By Stefanie Hoffman | February 28, 2012

It's that time of year again. With less than two months to go before the April 15 tax deadline, scammers are in full swing, eager to separate taxpayers from their hard earned refunds.

No doubt, scammers will pelt unsuspecting victims with a slew of social engineering ploys for bigger-than-expected or fast track refunds, official looking alerts warning users about tax complications, offers for some kind of “too-good-to-be-true” online tax deal or service, or e-mails impersonating the IRS in search of personally identifying information.

This month, the IRS listed the “Dirty Dozen” most prevalent tax scams on its Website—with “Identity Theft” and “Phishing” taking the No. 1 and No. 2 spots respectively. “Taxpayers should be careful and avoid falling into a trap with the Dirty Dozen,” says IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, in a statement. “Scam artists will tempt people in-person, on-line and by e-mail with misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. Don’t be fooled by these scams.”-

Generally, these emails will appear to be sourced from the IRS--written with complete sentences or incorporating the IRS logo to appear more authentic. Scammers count on the fact that many users won’t take the time to look that closely before clicking on malicious links and handing over personal information, while becoming even more rushed--and possibly careless--as the tax deadline nears.

In light of the anticipated rise of online tax scams, the IRS issued an advisory last month warning users about the rising tide of phishing attacks and spammed e-mails, while offering tips to avoid becoming the latest victim. Here are a few to keep in mind when filing your returns online this season:

  • ** **The IRS will never, ever, ask for detailed personal or financial information, like credit card or bank account numbers, PIN numbers or passwords via e-mail or any other form of electronic communication, such as texts and social media. If you receive an e-mail message from someone claiming to be with the IRS or directing you to the IRS site, ignore it. Better yet, delete it!

  • Should you unintentionally open an e-mail appearing to come from the IRS, ** **, avoid opening any attachments or clicking on any embedded links which will likely contain malware that could compromise your computer and steal data. If you click on any links or hand over any confidential information via e-mail, immediately visit the IRS Website and enter the search term “Identity Theft” for next steps.

  • The official IRS Website is But scammers will often try to dupe users with a URL that is similar or contains IRS in the name. (e.g.,, etc…) If you discover a Website claiming to be from the IRS that appears suspicious, report it immediately to the IRS.

  • If you receive a suspicious phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the agency actually did contact you. If the answer is negative, report the scam and forward all suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov_._

  • _ _The IRS encourages users to take a proactive stance and help shut down fraudulent tax sites. Details on how to report specific types of scams and what to do if you fall prey are available on Click on “phishing” on the home page.

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