Criminals who try to steal personal information from taxpayers remains the biggest threat to taxpayers this year, according to the IRS. Each year the IRS compiles a list of the top threats to taxpayers and releases them individually during the tax season. The entire list of 12 is called the Dirty Dozen.
Phishing is the process of tricking someone into giving personal information, usually by fake websites or bogus emails.
“These email schemes continue to evolve and can fool even the most cautious person. Email messages can look like they come from the IRS or others in the tax community,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a news release. “Taxpayers should avoid opening surprise emails or clicking on web links claiming to be from the IRS. Don’t be fooled by unexpected emails about big refunds, tax bills or requesting personal information. That’s not how the IRS communicates with taxpayers.”
Scammers can pose as the IRS in emails and seek personal information that would allow them to file a false return or may seek banking information that would allow them to take money directly from a taxpayer.
Phishing schemes have been an issue for the IRS for years, but the number of cases spiked in 2016, according to the agency. This year, the scammers are making the schemes more sophisticated, and the targets have evolved a little. The IRS said the scammers are targeting tax professionals and human resources departments.
Other scams on this year’s Dirty Dozen including phone scams that are similar to phishing but through the telephone instead of online. Also, the IRS warns of scams involving false W-2 forms.
Identity theft remains on the list, as does preparer fraud.
The IRS warns that taxpayers who use a professional to prepare their taxes should be wary of those who promise large refunds or seek to have the taxpayer sign a blank return.