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Recognizing Tax Scams

Posted by Busey Bank on Jan 30, 2023 10:15:00 AM
Busey Bank

Many people have fallen victim to tax scams—costing them not only a significant amount of money, but also their personal information. Unfortunately, these scams are particularly prevalent at this time of year, as most individuals are looking to maximize their tax return while also avoiding penalties from the IRS. 

A woman wearing glasses sits at a table looking at some paperwork.

In order to protect yourself this tax season, be on the lookout for the most common schemes:

  • Rebate Call. An unknown caller claims that you are entitled to “a sizable rebate” for filing your taxes early. However, in order to process the rebate via direct deposit, they need your bank account information. The scammer then uses this information to access your bank account.
  • Refund. You are entitled to a “refund,” which can only be received by filling out a form attached to the message. This form asks for your bank account information, which is then used by the scammer to steal from you.
  • Changes to the Tax Law. These emails alert you of changes to relevant tax laws with a focus on deductions and savings. However, when clicked on, the link provided in the email installs malware on your device (i.e., malicious software that can take over a computer—giving someone remote access to its data, including passwords, bank account numbers and other personal information).
  • Paper Check. A caller claiming to work for the IRS informs you that your refund check has not been cashed, so they need your bank account information to move forward with a direct deposit. Remember, the IRS will not reach out to you if you forget to cash your check—that is your responsibility.
  • Audit. These emails get everyone’s attention—and scammers know it. By directing you to fill out various forms in order to avoid penalties from the IRS, audit scams are very effective for providing criminals with enough personal information to steal someone’s identity.
  • Identity Theft. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to claim a fraudulent tax return. Many victims don’t realize their identity has been stolen until they try to file a tax return only to be notified that a return has already been filed under that particular Social Security number.
  • Third Party Debt Collection. A scammer claims that you owe back taxes to the IRS and unless you wire the money or pay by credit card within the hour, local law enforcement will come and arrest you. Please note that the IRS will never collect taxes in this manner, and local law enforcement does not get involved in such situations.

Now that you know what some of these scams may look like, here are a few reminders to prevent you from becoming a victim:

  • Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund. Any communication that suggests you apply for a tax refund using alternative methods is likely a scam. Don’t provide any personal information in response to a phone call, email or text message unless you are the one that initiated contact and can be certain the other party is trustworthy.
  • The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or text messages about tax account matters. The IRS will always send a written notification to taxpayers if there is an issue with their filing/return status.
  • The IRS uses the information on your tax return to process your refund. If you’ve already filed your taxes, then the IRS already has your bank account information—there is no need for you to provide it again.
  • Don't click on suspicious or unfamiliar links in emails or text messages. Never download email attachments or click on external links unless you can verify that the sender is legitimate. Visit government websites directly for important information.
  • Take advantage of identity protection programs. To help prevent identity theft and fraudulent tax returns, the IRS now offers an Identity Protection PIN program. This is a six-digit code known only to you and the IRS, which they use to verify your identity when you file your tax return. You should also use multi-factor authentication on your bank accounts when available.
  • Keep security software up to date. On most devices, you can set your security software to update automatically to ensure maximum protection.

If you receive a call, text message or email from someone claiming to be with the IRS, red flags should go up immediately. If you are the recipient of a suspicious message, please report this to the IRS by contacting them at

For more information about scams and how to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at

Topics: Fraud

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