As if tax season isn’t already dreaded enough without scammers making life more difficult! Criminals look to exploit both taxpayers and the government using a range of tax-related scams.
In a fake audit scam, targets are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS or similar tax agency and told that an audit has identified a discrepancy. Immediate payment is demanded with the threat of additional costs, imprisonment, or even deportation if victims don’t comply. Whether it’s through an email or recorded voicemail, this scam is easy to execute so probably won’t go away any time soon. Oddly, in Canada, it is reported that many of these particular scams involve payment requests via iTunes gift cards. You’d think this would be a bit of a giveaway, but it’s happening.
This one targets people who are expecting a tax refund. Again, criminals pose as the IRS or similar agency and prompt targets to click a link through which they can claim their refund. However, the link leads to a phishing site where the victim is asked to provide personal information such as their social security number and banking details, which can be used in identity theft.
This scam is a bit more sophisticated as it actually uses real client details stolen from accounting firms via hacking or phishing. The information is used to file a fake tax refund request which is processed by the IRS, and the client receives the refund amount. The scammer then poses as the IRS or a collection agency, tells the client the refund was issued in error, and demands the money be returned. Of course, the payment is directed toward the fraudster, not the IRS. This case spells double trouble for the client. Not only are they short their refund, they could also be in hot water with the IRS for supposedly filing a false claim.
Tax protester scheme
A tax protester scheme involves criminals calling or emailing consumers to tell them they don’t need to pay taxes. This is really more of a troll than an actual scam, because the person running it doesn’t benefit financially. However, the victim can be negatively impacted as failing to pay taxes can result in a conviction, including fines and imprisonment.