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How to Detect and Avoid IRS Tax Scams and Identity Theft

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There is a phishing scam going around purporting to be from the IRS. In this e-mail, they inform the recipient they are entitled to refunds of $92.35 or some other amount due to a calculation error on a past tax return. These e-mails are not from the IRS; they are from thieves who are attempting to extract your personal information to steal your identity and rack up thousands of dollars in charges they will make on your credit.

Identity theft - IRS Phishing scam

The IRS will never request your personal information via email.

In this e-mail example, recipients were advised to go to a link and enter their identifying information that would normally be on their tax form, (i.e., name, address, DOB, SSN, etc.) in order to process their refund request. This email is BOGUS. The IRS never sends e-mails requesting personal information; they always send letters advising the individual of a pending problem.

These scams always turn up with renewed force during tax season, when many recipients act without thinking. Never enter your identifying information into a website without understanding exactly why you are doing it and where the information is going. For these types of e-mails, it is best to NEVER click on the link in the e-mail. Instead, type the url directly into the web address bar in your browser.

From the IRS website:

Phishing. Phishing is a technique used by identity thieves to acquire personal financial data in order to gain access to the financial accounts of unsuspecting consumers, run up charges on their credit cards or apply for new loans in their names. These Internet-based criminals pose as representatives of a financial institution and send out fictitious e-mail correspondence in an attempt to trick consumers into disclosing private information. Sometimes scammers pose as the IRS itself. In recent months, some taxpayers have received e-mails that appear to come from the IRS. A typical e-mail notifies a taxpayer of an outstanding refund and urges the taxpayer to click on a hyperlink and visit an official-looking Web site. The Web site then solicits a social security and credit card number. In a variation of this scheme, criminals have used e-mail to announce to unsuspecting taxpayers they are “under audit” and could make things right by divulging selected private financial information. Taxpayers should take note: The IRS does not use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts. If a taxpayer has any doubt whether a contact from the IRS is authentic, the taxpayer should call 1-800-829-1040 to confirm it.

The IRS also gives information on how to report suspected tax fraud activity.

Be vigilant. Protect yourself against identity theft and computer fraud.


Published or updated March 7, 2013.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

I’ve never given the IRS my email address. Why on earth would I think they would use email to contact me when they do everything else in the world via snail mail?

The people who fall for these type scams should ask themselves the same questions! WAKE UP PEOPLE!

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2 Dividend growth investor

Stupidity and Greed would always be there, even in the 21st century. If it sounds too good to be true….

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3 Jesse

It really is unbelievable the lengths they will go to to try and get that info. Of course, its equally unbelievable how gullible people can be.

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4 Adfecto

People fall for some of the dumbest scams every day. Always ignore anything in your email or over the phone that asks for any personally identifying information, credit cards carry fraud protection so use them for any online payments that need to be made. Never click on any links given to you, instead get in the habit of typing the address yourself in the address bar. Look for the little padlock icon in the bottom left hand corner of your screen. These are basic tips that can save you from being ripped off. Sadly, people ignore these simple actions and get scammed. A little common sense and education goes a long way.

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5 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

Hey Jesse,

If you ever want to have some fun, the next time someone says, “I can’t believe how gullible people are.” Laugh with them and then casually say, “Did you know the word ‘gullible’ isn’t even in the dictionary?”

You’d be amazed at how many people fall for this one :)

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6 Ryan

Wow, Ron… I’ve used that one a few times! It works. :)

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7 Doc

This exact scam $92.35 happened to me in January 25, 2008 and referred to my 2006 additional refund check. I opened up the form and saw they ask for my credit card number and security code which I thought strange. Also, I knew my 2007 tax return was correct. I called IRS and they told me to report it to a separate section of IRS on phishing@irs.com. The cents figure .35 confused me because my returns are always in whole dollars. The email sender address with IRS logo and an IRS hotlink to a form that looked correct. It was done by professional scam artists.

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8 Ryan

Doc, thanks for the info. I’m happy to hear they didn’t take you for a ride! ;)

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9 Donna

I too received an email today advising I was owed an amount “$239,12″ by the irs. I forward the email to the irs “phising” email. These peope are crazy scam artist and will go as far as they can.

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10 Ryan

Donna, thanks for the head’s up. I’m glad you caught this and didn’t fall for their scam! ;)

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