While some scammers and phishers are using the U.S. mail for their own nefarious purposes, the main avenues for tax scams remain email and text messaging—these methods reach many more people at a fraction of the cost of a stamp.
It would be good to inform employees about these scams.
Economic impact payments
Remember the three checks everyone got from the government during the teeth of the pandemic? Those checks were free money—they weren’t taxable income and you didn’t have to reduce your tax refund to account for them.
Free money is, of course, an irresistible draw for scammers. Many of the most recent scams center on promises of a third round of economic impact payments, conveniently failing to mention that the third round of checks was sent out way back in 2021.
This scam, with email subject lines like “Third round of economic impact payments status available,” includes an embedded URL, which redirects you to a phishing website to steal personal information.
These emails are routinely riddled with spelling errors and factual inaccuracies, like this example:
“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”
Just as a reminder, the IRS doesn’t email or text you.
Misleading “you may be eligible for the ERC” claims
Offers to help you claim the employee retention credit started on the radio. They’ve spread to the internet, social media, unsolicited phone calls and even mailings that resemble official government letters but have fake agency names and usually urge immediate action.
No government agency is going to contact you out of the blue regarding your eligibility for the ERC. Remember, there’s nothing quick or easy about claiming the ERC.
The “claim your tax refund online” scheme
The entire tax prep industry does it on TV starting in early January—ads suggesting they can find hidden tax refund money in your old tax returns.
Identity thieves are capitalizing on this. A variation hitting email inboxes in recent weeks has a blue headline proclaiming you should “claim your tax refund online.”
Again, the telltale warning signs are present, including misspellings and urging you to click a link for help to “claim tax refund.” Here’s one example:
“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.”
The “help you fix it” text scheme
Math mistakes on 1040s are common. In another text scam, identity thieves create an official-sounding name on a text message, like “govirs-accnnt2023.” They then send messages saying there’s a problem with your tax return, but not to worry, the anonymous texter can help resolve the problem if you click on a link.
Like the others, there are many red flags here, including misspellings and factual inaccuracies:
“MSG … IRS: You federal return was ban-by the IRS. Don’t worry, we’ll help you fix it. Click this link.”
Receive a scam message?
People who receive these scams by email should send the email to email@example.com. You can forward the message, but IRS cybersecurity experts prefer to see the full email header to help them identify the scheme.