Taxpayers may not love tax season, but scammers sure do. It’s the time of year when they take advantage of the chaos and deadlines and begin working overtime to steal identity and refunds. It’s essential to protect yourself from tax scams. While we may be watchful and less apt to fall for cons the rest of the year, tax scammers may elicit a sense of urgency and catch you with your guard down. To a scammer, your personal information is just like money.

Beware of “urgent” emails, text messages, or phone calls from someone saying they are from the IRS 

Tax scammers pretend they are a representative of the IRS to try to steal your personal information, such as social security numbers, credit union, bank and credit card account information, and passwords. By using a link to a “spoofed” website that looks just like the real thing, they can trick a taxpayer into providing personal information. To protect yourself:

  • Beware of a sense of urgency or threats in subject lines or on calls. Many scammers try to scare you into paying them money or providing information.
  • Beware of requests to verify or update your personal information, such as financial information, social security numbers, and passwords. Government agencies will not ask you for this confidential information over the phone.
  • Never click on a link you receive. Instead, hover your mouse over the link without clicking and check the address. Clicking on links may infect your computer with viruses that enable a scammer to access information.
  • Take a close look at the email address of the sender. Does it match the official government email address for the IRS? Does it end in .gov, such as
  • Watch for misspelled words and bad grammar, common in phishing scams.
  • Watch for generic greetings, such as “Dear Taxpayer.” A scammer may have your email or phone number but not your name.
  • Beware of caller ID spoofing. Scammers will change their caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS, or another government agency is calling. Protect yourself from tax scams by not giving out any information over the phone and hanging up immediately.
  • Remember that the IRS will never contact a taxpayer using social media or text. The first contact from the IRS will typically come in the mail. Taxpayers unsure if they owe money to the IRS and are getting phone calls can view their tax account information on
  • If you suspect a scam IRS email, forward it to and then delete it.

Be aware the IRS never demands payment with gift cards 

Getting a call requiring immediate payment via a gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer is a definite sign of a scam. The IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. They also allow taxpayers to appeal the amount they owe. Scammers request payment in gift cards and pre-paid debit cards because they are easy for their targets to buy, and just like cash, once you use a gift card, it’s gone. Gift cards usually can’t be traced and aren’t tied to an individual or account. 

Don’t fall victim to tax preparer fraud  

It’s crucial to ensure your tax preparer is reputable. Fraudulent tax preparers may deceive you with offers of a more significant return that may seem too good to be true. A scammer will pose as a qualified tax preparer and inflate your return with dubious deductions and claims, and then charge you an inflated fee. They will then disappear, leaving you with the consequences of questionable returns. Some will even have your refund directed into their account. Watch for these warning signs:

  • The promise of a larger refund than other preparers can get you.
  • Preparers who request a fee based on a percentage of your tax return or cash payment.
  • A tax preparer who will not sign your return.
  • Being asked to sign a blank return.
  • A tax preparer who wants your return direct deposited into their account to disburse to you later.

Review your return thoroughly before allowing a preparer to file it. Make sure there are no false tax credits claimed or no other incorrect information provided to inflate your return. Verify that the direct deposit information is for your bank account and routing number; never sign a blank return.

When selecting a tax preparer, begin your search with the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

File early to protect yourself from tax scams

The IRS only accepts one tax return per social security number. If you file early, it becomes impossible for a scammer to use your personal information and social security number to file another return.

Every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS, called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Reading up on your rights is another way to protect yourself from tax scams and falling victim to con artists.

Be ready for tax season with our blog “5 Steps to Prepare for Tax Filing Season.”