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Tax scams occur year-round

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

While it's easier for criminals to exploit tax themes around the April filing deadline, tax scams crop up 365 days a year.

But despite the time of year, the most popular tax con remains the same: phishing.

Identity thieves send out emails purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service and request personal and tax information from the recipients.

A new phishing scheme has shown up this fall.

It announces "important information about your tax return," specifically that "we are unable to process your tax return."

Filled with spelling and grammar errors, the message continues:

"Our records indicate that the person identified as the primary taxpayer or spouse on the tax return did not provided (sic) all the required documents shown on the tax form. Our records are based on information received from the Social Security Administration.

Based on this information, the tax account for the individual has been locked."

To get any expected refund, continues the fake IRS message, the email recipient needs to reply to the message with all his or her financial and tax data.

Apparently, there still are people out there – they're known as ID theft victims -- who haven't gotten the message: The IRS does not send taxpayers emails asking for personal information.

Sometimes, though, the emails are pretty persuasive, such as when the criminals cite real IRS forms and notices in the fake emails.

Recent tax phishing efforts, for example, have referred to Notice CP01H.

The IRS does indeed have a real CP01H that it sends to filers when, according to the official IRS website, "we were unable to process your tax return. The IRS has locked your account because the Social Security Administration informed us that the Social Security number (SSN) of the primary or secondary taxpayer on the return belongs to someone who was deceased prior to the current tax year."

Sound familiar?

The big difference, though, is that the real IRS will you this notice the old-fashioned way, via the U.S. Postal Service.

So don't fall for any email communication that's allegedly from the IRS, regardless of how realistic it might seem.

I'll say it again: The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email.

If you are awaiting a refund, take the initiative. Look into your tax money's status yourself via the IRS's Where's My Refund? tracking tool.

And if you get any scam emails, ignore them and then forward the bogus email to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Don't be a tax scam victim. Stay on top of all the tax news by subscribing to Bankrate's free Weekly Tax Tip newsletter.

You also can follow me on Twitter at @taxtweet.

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3 Comments
FairTax Guy 1
November 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

These are a couple things I think WE the people should be carefull of. If the income tax is not fully repealed as promised OR a future president and/or Congress decides to re-instate some portion of the income tax code under the guise of a “national emergency” or something similar, we could end up with a national sales tax AND an income tax, which would be disastrous for our economic freedom. And also because tax rates would be simplified under the national sales tax system, this could ironically make it easier for the government to raise the tax rate on certain items that it deems “unhealthy” or “dangerous”. If this occurs, things such as fatty foods, cigarettes, firearms, and an indeterminate number of other politically unpopular items could wind up being taxed at exorbitant rates, which would certainly go against the spirit of a “fair” tax system.

Kay Bell
October 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

Glad to be of service, John. These tax phishers are the worst! We have enough to deal with in filing without them, too.

John Ahern
October 12, 2011 at 9:28 am

A timely and well written article. Today (October 12, 2011) I received an email from a client with the same wording. I linked him to this article. I also linked tax preparer colleagues to it too. Thank you.

John Ahern, attorney/CPA Chicago IL