Beware of Scams During Tax Season

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It’s tax season! Around this time every year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes its Dirty Dozen—a list of scams used by criminals for the purpose of obtaining personal information and/or stealing money. You can check out the 2023 list of scams here:  

Let’s discuss a few of the more popular scams you should guard against. 


We’ll start with spoofing – one of many social engineering tactics. This disguises an email to look like it’s from your boss or someone higher up in your firm. Criminals have been spoofing corporate employees for years, and they target all walks of life, including school districts, tribal organizations, restaurants, hospitals, and non-profits. If you receive a suspicious email, contact your Human Resources department. 


Merriam-Webster explains phishing like this: “…A common phishing scam involves sending emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as banks and the IRS, requesting recipients to provide personal details, such as credit card information, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and more. Once you click on certain parts of the email, you are taken to a website that has been disguised to look like the real thing.  

Don’t think you are too smart to be scammed. It happens. Remember, if you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS, remember this: The IRS does not contact taxpayers about refunds or tax bills using email, text, or social media. In addition, banks and financial institutions typically won’t ask for confidential personal information (usernames, passwords, personal identification numbers, and so on) through text messages, email, or social media.  

Phone Scams

The number of IRS phone scams is on the rise, and the scams are savvier than ever. Be wary if you receive a call and the person says they are from the IRS – even if caller ID says it’s the IRS and the person on the other end of the line offers a badge number and official-sounding title – because it’s likely a scammer. 

Criminals have been impersonating IRS agents and demanding immediate payment of taxes without giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. They may threaten the taxpayer with arrest, deportation, or other punishment. The IRS does not do this. Scammers may also require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, or insist taxpayers provide credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Don’t do it. 

Instead of engaging, take the caller’s information, refrain from giving out any of your information, and tell them you will call back. Then, look up the number for your local IRS office. Call them to confirm if the caller is an actual IRS employee or not. Don’t call the number provided by the caller. 

Identity Theft

This is not a new one, but the risk of exposure to identity theft is growing every day. Criminals have been using other people’s personal information (Social Security numbers, names, addresses, birth dates, etc.) to obtain money or credit for many years. Recently, scammers have also been filing false tax returns. The IRS has implemented measures that appear to be effective. 

Regardless of the progress that has been made, the IRS cautioned, “Taxpayers need to watch out for identity theft, especially around tax time. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue criminals who file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security number. Though the agency is progressing on this front, taxpayers still need to be extremely cautious and do everything they can to avoid being victimized.” 

Being wary can help protect against scammers, but criminals may find a way to capture your personal information regardless of your precautions. If you worry your data may have been compromised, consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze lets you restrict access to your credit report and makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. To learn more, contact one of the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion

Unfortunately, criminals are constantly devising schemes to harm the innocent, and that is unlikely to change as technology evolves. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. Be vigilant in watching and listening for things that just don’t seem right.

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