Beware Tax Season Scams

(Gary Weingarden, Privacy Officer & Director IT Security | Published March 2024)

Tax Scams

Scammers don’t need a special occasion to con you, but it definitely helps. It’s tax season and the scammers will use our culture and expectations against us.

Best advice: If you’re contacted about tax-related matters be skeptical.

The IRS, the FTC, and several state attorneys general have web pages with details about current scams and advice about how to spot them. I’ll hit the high points here.

Kinds of scams:

  1. “Free” tax filing software or dark patterns directing consumers away from free filing options. This may not be the kind of scam you came here to read about, but the FTC has recently determined Intuit and H&R Block both made deceptive claims about free filing or treated consumers unfairly when they tried to file for free.
  2. Tax resolution scams. Some scammers advertise that they can settle your tax debt or otherwise save you from the IRS’s unforgiving collection machine. Don’t get me wrong—in some cases, some of these folks are legitimate—they’re usually the ones who don’t make outlandish claims. But others will just keep your money or exhaust your rights with junk filings. Be skeptical. The California Attorney General notes that you can probably do most of that stuff yourself using online resources.
  3. Impersonation. You get a call or text from someone claiming that they’re with the IRS and either offering a rebate or demanding taxes that they claim you owe. There’s also a recent version involving physical mail.
  4. Email scams. The Michigan Attorney General lists the following:
    • Emails that pose as a trusted source, like a bank or tax provider;
    • Emails that use the official IRS logo or whole sections of text from the IRS website;
    • Emails with an urgent message, i.e., update your account now;
    • Emails with instructions to click on a link or open an attachment;
    • Emails using a fake “from” address (see example below); and
    • Emails using forms with numbers similar to those the IRS uses.

And the IRS adds one that specifically targets educational institutions, students, and staff.

  1. Lots of other scams. The IRS lists scams related to the Employee Retention Credit, Fake W-2 forms, Pandemic-related, Fake Charities, Identity Theft for the purpose of unemployment fraud, Ghost return preparers, scams targeting tax professionals and HR departments, and notes a surge in phishing emails sent from irs and related email addresses.

What to do to avoid scams:

  1. Stay aware of new scams. In addition to the links provided above, the IRS has a web page that explains how to know if it’s really the IRS contacting you and another that explains how scammers pose as the IRS and publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams:
  2. Many of these scams are social engineering aimed at getting your information. The IRS will not email, text, or call you asking for personal details or financial information. As the Michigan Attorney General notes: “Anybody contacting you claiming to be from the IRS and asking you for personal or financial information is a crook.”
  3. Don’t click links in emails or texts unless you know the sender and were expecting the link.
  4. If you get a call from the IRS—call them back at 800-829-1040.
  5. If the story doesn’t make sense or the message has typos or other errors, don’t respond.
  6. Forward suspected IRS phishing emails to
  7. For scams that come into your work email, please see the Tufts Email security tips.

Other resources re: tax scams:

There is a lot in the news related to tax scams. Here are a couple other articles that may be helpful.