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Posted February 12, 2020

Tax season comes every year and with it comes a new round of scammers trying to get money and information from you.

This year, the IRS is warning consumers of these popular scams.

‘Ghost’ Tax Return Preparer Scam

A ghost preparer will assist in filing your return, but will not sign as a paid preparer, thus suggesting a self-prepared return. By law, anyone who assists with or prepares a return should have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and sign tax returns as a paid preparer.

Dishonest tax preparers may add erroneous tax credits or claim phony deductions to increase refunds for clients, especially if they charge fees based on a percentage of the refund.

Before signing, review your tax return to ensure accuracy and ask questions if something is unclear. While reviewing, it’s important to ensure routing and account numbers for direct deposit are correct.

Threatening Calls and Emails

Look out for fraudsters calling and pretending to be IRS or collection agents. Criminals use spoofing techniques to make it appear as if calls are coming from the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), tricking people into believing it’s a legitimate call.

Fraudsters call demanding immediate payment for a supposed tax bill and usually ask for a specific payment method, such as prepaid debit cards, gift cards, or wire transfer.

They’re also sending emails to personal and business accounts appearing to be the IRS. The email will ask you to click an attachment or link and then will install malicious software.

It’s important to remember that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email, text, or social media. They’ll never call to demand immediate payment or threaten to bring in police or other law-enforcement to have you arrested.Here are more tips to know if it’s really the IRS.

‘Tax Transcript’ Email Scam

Scammers are posing as financial institutions or ‘IRS Online’ and sending documents via email with ‘Tax Account Transcript’ as the subject line or document title. When the consumer opens the email or attachment, malware can spread, which is especially harmful for businesses.

The IRS won’t send unsolicited emails, especially with sensitive information or documents. Avoid opening the email, but if you do so accidentally, forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.

Tax Refund Scam

The tax refund scam involves thieves using phishing or infecting computers to gain access to tax return data for thousands of filers. They then use this information to file refund claims on behalf of the victim.

Once the refund has been deposited or a check has been sent, the scammer reaches out (usually by phone) to the victim posing as an IRS or collection agent demanding the money be returned. They may also use a recorded call threatening the victim if they do not return the money.

If you think you’re a victim of this particular scam, it’s important to act quickly.

If you receive an unexpected tax refund via direct deposit:

  • Immediately call us (512.302.6800) or your financial institution to have the funds returned to the IRS and to close or flag the account because of fraud
  • Call the IRS at 800.829.1040 to let them know why the refund is being returned

If you receive a paper check and have NOT cashed it:

  • Write VOID in the endorsement section on the back of the check
  • Include a note with your returned check stating “Return of erroneous refund check because (give brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund check).”
  • Submit the check to the appropriate IRS location (look at the bottom text line in front of the words “TAX REFUND” on your refund check)

If you receive a paper check and have cashed it:

  • Write a check, money order, etc. and send to the appropriate IRS location
  • If you no longer have access to a copy of the check, call the IRS at 800.829.1040 and explain that you need information to repay a cashed refund check
  • Write on the check/money order: Payment of Erroneous Refund, the tax period for which the refund was issued, and your taxpayer identification number
  • Include a brief description as to why you are returning the refund


If you think you are a victim of tax-related identity theft or scam, click here for more recommendations and steps to take from the IRS.