Every year, scam artists innovate and the IRS plays catch-up. Don’t get me wrong, the IRS has a diligent fraud unit and they communicate to the public in a clear and concise way. That said, crooks can be frighteningly resourceful and creative — and every tax season they prove it. Below I’ve listed some new trends, and twists on old trends, to be aware of.

Small Crimes Add Up: The media was quick to educate the public about tax refund scams last year, but scammers have found a way that avoids most detection: The IRS has seen fraudsters submit low-dollar refunds hoping that those smaller numbers will encounter less scrutiny.

Threatening Phone Calls: Scammers who operate over the phone will often resort to intimidation if their standard script doesn’t work. The IRS reports that recently taxpayers have been targeted by phone callers claiming to be from the IRS — complete with a fake name and badge number — who threaten to suspend or cancel their Social Security numbers. That, of course, will never happen. We are all stuck with our Social Security numbers for life. 

It’s Phishing Season: According to the IRS newsroom —

The IRS this week detected this new scam as taxpayers began notifying phishing@irs.gov about unsolicited emails from IRS imposters. The email subject line may vary, but recent examples use the phrase ‘Automatic Income Tax Reminder’ or ‘Electronic Tax Return Reminder.’

The emails have links that show an IRS.gov-like website with details pretending to be about the taxpayer’s refund, electronic return or tax account. The emails contain a ‘temporary password’ or ‘one-time password’ to ‘access’ the files to submit the refund. But when taxpayers try to access these, it turns out to be a malicious file.” 

It’s good to know how to protect yourself, but your accountant or tax preparer also shares a large portion of the burden. Talk to them about fraud — maybe even see if they’ve heard of the schemes in this post. 

For more information about getting ready for the trip to your accountant, contact me.