Preparation for tax season has begun, which means criminals and fraudsters are already busy deploying their next scam. Tax season typically brings about an influx of phishing scams with the intent of siphoning personal and financial data from unsuspecting victims.

Be wary of phone calls and emails from anyone claiming to be from the IRS. Identity thieves have been known to pose as IRS agents, providing a fake name and IRS badge number and even creating a fake
phone number that appears on caller ID as coming from the IRS.

Many of these scams are intended to trick taxpayers into revealing Social Security numbers and other personal information that can be used by criminals to steal victims' identity and money, including tax refunds. Others involve phone callers saying the taxpayer owes money to the IRS that must be paid promptly by wire transfer (that actually goes to the crook) or by loading funds onto a prepaid debit card and then sharing the number. The scammer may try to intimidate a targeted victim who refuses to cooperate, such as by threatening arrest or suspension of a business or driver's license, audits, deportation, and other legal action or promise checks for unclaimed funds.

As April gets closer, be on full alert and apply the following tips to help protect yourself from becoming the next tax fraud victim:

  • Never click on links embedded in emails or open any attachments from unknown email accounts or from accounts that you suspect to be fraudulent.
  • Always independently verify that any requested information is originating from a legitimate source.
  • Enter a site’s domain address yourself when visiting a website.
  • If you are contacted via phone for personal information, hang up, look up the number for the institution calling you on the institution’s website and call back with the number found on the site. Do not give out information on an unsolicited phone call.

Help protect your identity and personal information by utilizing the above smart practices. Don’t let the stress of tax preparation season cause your guard to be down.

Remember, the IRS typically does not initiate emails to individuals asking for personal information. Before acting on any phone call or email purportedly from the IRS, call the agency at 800-829-1040. An agent will be able to verify whether the IRS is in fact trying to get in touch with you. If you are certain the contact was part of a scam, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 800-366-4484.

You can also report unsolicited emails by forwarding it to

Article adapted from BankOnITUSA® and FDIC Consumer News