Can You Spot the "Dirty Dozen" Phony Tax Practices?

Can You Spot the "Dirty Dozen" Phony Tax Practices?

Man on the phone in his home office

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) releases a "Dirty Dozen" list of common tax scams that put victims at risk of identity theft and money loss. The following rank high, so keep an eye out for them:

Telephone tax refund scams

Scam artists may pose as IRS employees or law enforcement in an attempt to steal your money or identity. These fraudulent callers might say you owe money or are entitled to a large refund.

  • Red Flags: Callers generally use common names and false IRS badge numbers. They may be able to recite the last four digits of your Social Security Number, and some might even issue threats.
  • Protect Yourself: Never give out any identifying information over the phone, no matter what the caller claims or threatens. Hang up and contact the IRS to verify any issues with your return or refund. If there aren't any, report the tax scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

Phishing emails or websites

Scammers may use well-crafted, fake versions of tax-related websites and emails bearing the IRS logo to steal personal information.

  • Red Flags: Emails claiming to be from the IRS (which doesn't contact taxpayers to request personal information) or websites that ask for personal or financial information in order to receive a refund.
  • Protect Yourself: If you receive an email regarding your tax refund, do not reply, open any attachments or click any links. If you think you have found a suspicious website, let the IRS know.

Phony return preparers

While most tax preparation consultants file their clients' returns honestly, some will commit tax fraud scams or identity theft. You are responsible for your tax return even if you didn't prepare it, so do your research before letting someone else file for you.

  • Red Flags: Preparers who don't offer electronic filing, who offer to file your return without a W-2 form, or who don't sign your return or enter their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs).
  • Protect Yourself: Before selecting a tax preparation consultant, review their history and the status of their license. Make sure they have a PTIN and avoid preparers who base their service fees on your refund amount.


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