Tax scams increase by 400% as filing deadline approaches

Deborah Salmi 14 Apr 2016

Criminals target American taxpayers with phishing and telephone scams.

Phishing email and malware have increased 400% this tax season.

The April 18th tax deadline is quickly approaching in the United States, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning people that scammers are stepping up their game by impersonating IRS workers with fake phone calls and phishing emails.

"We’ve seen continuing activity in these scams throughout the filing season," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

"As the tax deadline nears, these criminals may try and trick honest taxpayers over the phone or via email, and people should remain vigilant. After the tax deadline, watch out for these scammers promising a refund or threatening you with an unexpected tax bill."

Beware of phishing emails during tax season

Scammers use official-looking phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS, tax preparation companies, or the state revenue department. The emails usually contain questions related to the tax refund and entice people to "update their personal information" by clicking on links that could lead to malware. Text messages or pop-ups asking for financial information have also been reported. 

If you receive a phishing email:

  • Don't reply to the message
  • Don't give out any personal or financial information
  • Don't open any attachments or click on any links
  • Forward the email to, then delete it
Read about the IRS's list of Dirty Dozen tax scams

Phone scams are popular during tax season

Scammers have also been using phone calls to scam taxpayers into paying a bogus tax payment. They trick the victim into paying with cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

Another telephone tactic that has recently been reported is that of scammers calling to verify tax return information. They attempt to get your personal information such as a social security number or bank account or credit card numbers.

To make the call look more authentic, scammers alter caller ID numbers to make it appear that the IRS or other agency is calling. They use official IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may also be armed with the victim's name, address, and personal information.

If you receive a phone call from the IRS asking for money :

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