IRS Warns of Numerous Scams
Scam artists and identity thieves never rest. The IRS has issued a warning regarding a marked and notable increase in schemes targeting unsuspecting taxpayers. Although some of the schemes have been around for a while, others are new. Here is what you need to know about each scheme:
The Delivery Service Scheme
Since the IRS still uses physical mail for its initial communication with taxpayers, this new scam does not rely on phone calls, e-mails or texts but rather on an actual mailing. A letter with the IRS’s official logo will arrive in a cardboard envelope and indicate that it relates to the taxpayer’s unclaimed refund. The letter contains numerous signs which indicate that it is nothing more than a scam. Here is what to look for:
- The contact information and phone number listed on the letter do not belong to the IRS.
- The letter asks for sensitive personal information. Specifically, it requests detailed pictures of the taxpayer’s driver’s license, something the IRS does not generally request. Further the request for the driver’s license uses the following incorrect language: “A Clear Phone of Your Driver’s License That Clearly Displays All Four (4) Angles, Taken in a Place with Good Lighting”.
- The letter asks for the taxpayer’s cell phone number, bank routing information, social security number and bank account type. The IRS knows your social security number. If the letter were coming from the IRS the last for digits of the taxpayer’s social security number would be identified at the top of the letter.
- The letter contains this odd and nonsensical warning: “You’ll Need to Get This to Get Your Refunds After Filing. These Must Be Given to a Filing Agent Who Will Help You Submit Your Unclaimed Property Claim. Once You Send All The Information Please Try to Be Checking Your Email for Response From The Agents Thanks.”
There are several issues with this “warning”. First, a refund for income taxes is requested by filing Form 1040X. While an informal claim for refund can be made in a manner other than a Form 1040X, the most common method for claiming a refund is through the use of the IRS form. Second, who is a filing agent? The IRS has no such person. Third, any monies owed to a taxpayer for a prior year’s return are referred to by the IRS as “unclaimed refunds” and not as an “unclaimed property claim”. Lastly, the IRS will not communicate with the taxpayer about the refund through the use of email. Additionally, the IRS does not send letters to individual taxpayers advising them of the deadline to request a refund. The IRS does make public service announcements of the upcoming deadline for claiming refunds. It is then the taxpayer’s responsibility to file a timely return to claim a refund.
- The letter contains odd punctuation marks and uses a variety of fonts.
- The letter contains inaccurate information by claiming that the request for refund must be made by October 17. The deadline for requesting a refund depends on the year for which the refund is being sought and when the return was actually filed. The upcoming deadline relates to tax year 2019. A taxpayer who requested an extension of time to file his/her 2019 return until October 15, 2020 has until October 16, 2023, not October 17, to file a claim for refund since October 15 falls on a Sunday.
The Claim your Refund Online Scheme
The IRS has noticed this scheme in the last few weeks. You will know this is a scam because:
- The scheme comes via an email with a blue headline saying “Claim your Refund Online”. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email.
- The email is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. A typical email reads as follows:
We cheked an error in the calculation of your tax from the last payment, amounting to $ 927,22. In order for us to return the excess payment, you need to create a E-Refund after which the funds will be credited to your specified bank. Please click below to claim your tax refund. If we are unable to complete within 3 days, all pending will be cancelled.”
- See paragraph 4 above regarding IRS procedures for claiming refunds.
The Help you Fix-it Scheme
This is another scheme the IRS has spotted in the last few weeks. In this scheme, the scammers send a message alerting the recipient that there is a problem with the filed tax return. The message then advises the taxpayer that he/she has nothing to worry about because the problem can be resolved by clicking on the link in the communication. The communication is obviously a scam since:
- The communication comes via a text message. The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via text.
- The message comes from govirs-accnnt2023. This is not a valid address for the IRS as it identifies as irs.gov.
- The message contains numerous spelling and grammatical errors and factual inaccuracies. A sample text reads as follows:
MSG … IRS: You federal return was ban-by the IRS. Don’t worry, we’ll help you fix it. Click this link.
- The biggest red flag should be the “don’t worry” language. When has the IRS ever contacted a taxpayer about an issue on the return and told them not to worry?!
The Economic Impact Scheme
According to the IRS, this is the highest volume email scheme right now. Although this scheme has been around since 2021, the IRS has noticed an increase in emails promoting this scheme since the July 4 holiday. You can tell this email is a scam because:
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, texts or other social media.
- The subject line or heading of the emails says something like “Third Round of Economic Impact Payments Status Available”. There was a third “stimulus” payment back in January of 2021 and it has ended. Congress has not talked about nor authorized any additional stimulus payments and by now anyone who was entitled to the third stimulus payment has already received it.
- The language contained in the email alone should tip you off that the communication is a scam and not really coming from the IRS. The email reads as follows:
“Dear Tax Payer, We hope this message finds you well. We are writing to inform you abount an important matter regarding your recent tax return filing. Our record indicate that we have received your tax return for the fiscal inconsistencies or missing information that require your attention and clarification. You will receive a tax refund of $976.00 , We will process this amount once you have submitted the document we need for the steps to claim your tax refund.
Sender : INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE”
The Employee Retention Credit Scheme
This scheme has been around for a while, but the IRS has noticed a significant increase in the promotion of the scheme. The scheme is advertised on the radio, social media, online offers, unsolicited emails and phone calls, and actual letters pretending to come from government agencies that do not really exist. You can learn more about this scheme at: https://magdaabdogomezlaw.com/irs-warns-employers-of-third-parties-promoting-employee-retention-credit-claims/
Protect yourself. Never click on any unsolicited communications claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not contact taxpayers through email, text or social media. If you receive such messages send a copy of the email or text to [email protected]. Scams can also be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.