Watch out for tax scams

The IRS reported a nearly 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season and you can bet that number will be as high, if not higher, this year.

Fraudulent returns continue to top the list of scams because electronic filing makes it so easy to file returns when a thief acquires your Social Security Number. In fact, the problem has gotten so big that the IRS will be delaying refunds for all taxpayers until Feb. 15 this year in order to give them more time to screen for fraud.

The IRS provides a list of several popular scams, found at The top of the list describes a sophisticated telephone scam targeting all tax filers and the second details a phishing scam. Be prepared and look for the phishing warning signs.

The IRS will NEVER:

  • call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
  • demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
  • require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
  • ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
  • threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
It is important to be cautious and make sure that a promising message is actually coming from the source it claims before buying into its offer.

Fraudulent tax returns continue to be a billion dollar expense for the Treasury Department, but one of the ways you can avoid becoming a victim is file as early as you can to beat them to the punch.

If you believe you're a victim of ID theft, the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit phone number is (800) 908-4490.

Last Updated: August 23, 2016