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5 Tips for Avoiding Tax Scams in 2024


If you’ve noticed an uptick in the number of texts, calls or emails you’ve received claiming to be from the IRS, you’re not alone. Tax season is well underway, and scammers are especially active during this time.

In 2023, the IRS reported 294,138 identity theft complaints. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data shows that consumers reported $10 billion in fraud losses in 2023, a 14% increase from 2022.

Tax scams often involve someone pretending to be an IRS official or debt collector. They may suggest you owe money or misfiled your taxes to steal your money. Here are some warning signs to watch out for this tax season as the latest IRS scams ramp up.

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Ways to shield yourself from tax scams

1. Know how the IRS operates 

If the IRS needs to contact you, it will generally do so by mail first. Any calls, texts, messages, DMs or emails you receive about your tax refund or “overdue tax” bill are warning signs of fraud. According to the FTC, the highest per-person reported losses to scams in 2023 were to phone calls.

If you do receive mail from the IRS, search the Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter page to verify whether your IRS letter is authentic. If the letter looks suspicious or the page doesn’t return a search result, contact the IRS at 800-829-1040.

Another tip? Exercise caution if someone shows up at your home or business claiming to be from the IRS. In August 2023, the agency ended its unannounced visit policy to combat tax scams. In most cases, if the IRS wants to meet with you in person, it will now mail a 725-B appointment letter first.

2. Be wary of immediate demands 

Scammers often create an immediate call to action, says John Watkins, senior vice president of fraud strategy at Jenius Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina. When it comes to tax scams, the IRS says that scammers may “threaten you with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license” — something the agency would never do. The IRS also says scammers target vulnerable communities, such as recent immigrants, people with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities such as deafness.

Slowing down, stopping the interaction, and talking to someone you trust are great defense mechanisms, says Watkins. “Speed is the crook’s friend. They’re trying to drive quick action and quick behavior where you don’t get a chance to think it through.”

3. Avoid sharing sensitive information

If someone offers to help you create an account with the IRS, just say no. The IRS cautions against accepting help from a third party outside the approved IRS authentication process. To create or verify your IRS account, go directly to IRS.gov yourself.

Likewise, be wary of anyone who asks for personal information out of context, such as birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank information, credit or debit details or a photo ID. The IRS will never ask for these, so just hang up, delete that email or trash that letter.

4. Think twice about clicking on that link

A scammer may try to access your device through an infected link, email or attachment. They may even personalize their communication and ask about your filing status, refund or PIN.

The IRS says it can be confusing when tax scams are designed to look official. According to Boston-based cybersecurity expert and iBoss CEO Paul Martini, scammers also use AI to improve the quality and volume of their schemes. As a result, consumers should expect a greater level of sophistication and personalization from scams.

A good rule is to only open or approve something if you expect it and know what it is. Accidentally opening an infected page or document can allow a scammer to add malware to your device, monitor your activity and steal personal information. Instead, report suspicious or unsolicited emails to the IRS at [email protected].

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Transparent pricing

Hassle-free tax filing* is $50 for all tax situations — no hidden costs or fees.

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Maximum refund guaranteed

Get every dollar you deserve* when you file with this tax product, powered by Column Tax.

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Faster filing

File up to 2x faster than traditional options.* Get your refund, and get on with your life.

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5. Verify the credentials of the person you speak to

Scammers may pose as IRS and FTC officials, fraud investigators, debt collectors, work colleagues or even family members. They may mention relevant charges you’ve made recently or your tax return, perhaps claiming you filed incorrectly or your identity was stolen.

IRS agents are assigned an official identification card, known as an HSPD-12 card. Someone is probably lying about their identity if they can’t provide it. Similarly, remember to look into your tax preparer’s background and ensure they have a valid preparer tax identification number, or PTIN, before you hand over your personal information.

If the person claims to be someone you know, hang up and call that person directly. According to Watkins, scammers want to get your emotions going so that you stop thinking. When in doubt, slow down, stop the conversation, talk to someone you trust and verify who’s who. Then, any fraud should be reported to the IRS or the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.



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