by | Mar 29, 2024 | Personal Finance | 0 comments

During tax season, taxpayers (meaning, most of us!) are often bombarded with documents and overwhelmed by a load of information. This creates an environment where scammers can easily step in and take advantage of even the most diligent. Tax season scams are becoming more common, and they can get pretty clever.  

The IRS issues Consumer Alerts when they find out about a scam, which is helpful. They also release an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the most popular (and worst) scams they see each year. This year’s list was just released on March 28th (see link above). It’s filled with classics and a few new schemes. Here are a handful of the highlights that you should know about. 

Scam Emails that Appear to be Legit  

Scammers often copy a company logo (the IRS logo, for example, or a tax software company) and paste it into a fake email to fool you into thinking it is from a legitimate organization. Don’t fall for it. This is called “phishing,” as in fishing for personal information. Don’t take the bait. 

Any email that asks you for personal information (such as your Social Security Number, account number, tax filing status, or verification of your password or PIN) should be viewed as suspicious. And any email that contains threats (like a legal or criminal charges against you if you do not respond) is most likely fake. 

Don’t respond to such emails, even if they appear to be sent from a known source like the IRS or your own tax professional. The IRS suggests:  

Individuals should verify the identity of the sender by using another communication method, for instance, calling a number they independently know to be accurate, not the number provided in the email or text. 

Text scams are relatively new and even have a new name: “smishing.” This is just like phishing via email, so the same rules apply: don’t respond to unsolicited texts or click on the links. You can report the message to 7726 (SPAM) and report the information to the IRS.  

These are classic scam techniques to steal your personal information. This tax season, watch out for scammers that tell you a special form is needed to file your taxes. From the IRS website: 

Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. IRS doesn’t require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. 

Taxpayer Advocacy Panel 

While this panel is real, none of its volunteers will ever contact you to request your personal information. In fact, the TAP simply advises the IRS on issues affecting taxpayers. They don’t even have access to your personal or financial information. If someone contacts you saying they are from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, the IRS advises that you hang up or forward the email to  

Fake Charities 

Did you know that there is a tool on the IRS website to verify if an organization is a legitimate tax-exempt charity? The IRS suggests taxpayers use this tool before making monetary donations:  

Tax-Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) tool 

Other red flags to watch for include high pressure to send the money now (real charities are happy to get a donation any time); requests for personal information in addition to money (real charities will not ask for your Social Security Number, for example); and/or odd requirements for how the donation is sent (real charities do not ask for gift cards or a wire transfer; normal check or credit cards are fine).  

Bogus Refunds 

Last year, an especially odd scam circulated where scammers sent a cardboard mailer via delivery service. The mailer contained an official-looking letter regarding “your unclaimed refund.” Naturally many were fooled into thinking this was legitimately from the IRS.  

However, the letter’s contents should have been a tip that this was a scam. In oddly-worded phrases with unusual punctuation, the letter told the recipient to immediately call the phone number listed (which was not a real phone number of the IRS) and to provide detailed personal information (such as a copy of your driver’s license) in order to receive a tax refund. Guess who was waiting at the other end of the line? A scammer who was happy to take the personal information and run away with identity theft.  

When you receive a letter from the IRS, before responding, you can check out its legitimacy by following these steps (per the IRS website):  

Go to and search on the letter, notice, or form number. Please be aware fraudsters often modify legitimate IRS letters and forms. You can also find information at Understanding your notice or letter or by searching forms and instructions. For additional information please see How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door. 

How to avoid becoming a victim 

In addition to the tips and resources above, there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself and practice “good financial hygiene.” 

Do not respond to unsolicited requests for money or personal information. Anything that comes “out of the blue” should be regarded as suspicious. This includes phone calls. Only answer phone calls that are from numbers you know. If it is important, the caller will leave a message.  

Protect your personal information like a hawk. Do NOT provide your full Social Security Number, date of birth, account numbers or passwords to anyone unless you have initiated the contact. Legitimate companies will NEVER request this information via email.  

When in doubt, check it out! Call the company or person who supposedly sent you the request, at the number you know to be theirs, not the number provided. For example, if an email says it is from your credit card company, call the company at the number listed on your card, not at the number provided in the email.  

The IRS also encourages you to report phishing, smishing, or any other scam you may see, so that they can continue to let others know about the scams that are out there, as well as pursue the criminals behind the scam. Here’s how to do that (again, per the IRS website):  

Report all unsolicited email – including the full email headers – claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related function to If someone experienced any monetary losses due to an IRS-related scam incident, they should report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).  

I hope you find this information helpful