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Beware of these Tax Scams

Beware of these Tax Scams


By: Chris McGorrill


Here's the bad news about any unexpected good news you receive in an email from the Internal Revenue Service: It's probably bogus. For example, the IRS will not contact you via email, out of the blue, about a refund for which you were unaware.

Somehow, people fall for this scam again and again. Some have received emails--with convincing IRS logos--that display a refund amount and a link you must click on to get the refund.

The link leads to a mock-IRS Web page form that requires financial information, such as a Social Security and bank account number, user ID, password, mother's maiden name, and the like. Victims enter this information, press "submit," and Presto! Another identity thief now has the means to make a bank balance disappear.

The bogus IRS email is an example of "phishing," which can lead to identity theft. It occurs when scammers use an authentic-looking email to trick recipients into supplying personal financial data.

Don't take the bait—it's expensive

Although phishing accounts for only a fraction of the Internet fraud committed each year, its sting goes deep. We offer a few clues that an email may be from an IRS imposter:

  • Your gut reaction: If it sounds too good to be true—it probably is.
  • No forewarning: The IRS does not make initial contact with taxpayers via email. Agents do correspond via email, such as during some audit situations, but that doesn't happen unless you provide them with your email address first. 
  • Tortured English: Most phishing emails traced by the IRS originate outside the United States. Look for grammar and spelling mistakes or unusual words and sentence structures. 

To get additional tips on how to avoid identity theft, what this short Atlantic Money Clip video.

Phishers exploit charity donors

Phishers also may pose as charitable organizations. Finding a list of donors to a charity isn't difficult, and criminals use the organization's identity to go phishing.

For example, they send emails telling donors that the charity has calculated the tax-deductible amount of their donations. Donors are asked to supply Social Security numbers or other personal data to retrieve the documentation they'll need to claim the tax deductions.

Don't guess—ask the experts

The best thing to do if you're unsure whether an email regarding taxes is legitimate is to check at, call your local IRS office, or forward the email to [email protected]. Not only can you find the truth there—you may alert the IRS to a criminal who can be shut down before scamming another victim.


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