Summertime, and the scamming is surging.
That is according to the IRS, which issued a warning Friday for taxpayers to be wary of offers promising tax refunds or to “fix” tax problems. Many of these offers center on promises of a third round of economic impact payments. The IRS said it was receiving hundreds of complaints daily — and thousands since the July 4 holiday — at its firstname.lastname@example.org email account.
The economic impact payment scam includes an embedded URL that takes people to a phishing website to steal their personal information, the IRS said, adding that the third round of payments occurred over two years ago.
The scam, which has been around since 2021, has changed over time to trick people, the IRS said.
Remember: The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text, or social media regarding a bill or tax refund.
“The IRS is seeing a wave of these summer scams relentlessly pounding taxpayers,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. “People are being flooded with these email and text messages, but we want them to avoid getting swept up in these terrible scams. Taxpayers should be wary; remember, don’t click on links from questionable sources.”
The IRS also has received reports about emails urging people to “Claim your tax refund online” and text messages that the person’s tax return was “banned” by the IRS. Spelling errors and awkward phrasing are one sign that these emails are a scam.
In addition to the economic impact payment scheme, the most recent wave of tax scams includes:
The misleading ‘You may be eligible for the ERC’ claim
The IRS has observed a significant increase in false employee retention credit (ERC) claims, an issue that made the IRS’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list earlier this year. The ERC is a pandemic-related credit for which only certain employers qualify.
Taxpayers should avoid promoters who say they can quickly determine someone’s eligibility without details and those who charge upfront fees or a fee based on a percentage of the ERC claimed, the IRS said.
The IRS advises eligible employers who need help claiming the ERC to work with a trusted tax professional. Details about eligibility, how to properly claim the credit, and how to report promoters are available at irs.gov/erc.
The ‘claim your tax refund online’ scheme
Because taxpayers are enticed by the idea that they have possibly overlooked money owed to them, identity thieves are upping their game with email and text schemes suggesting the recipient has missed out on a tax refund.
A variation hitting inboxes in recent weeks has a blue headline proclaiming that people should “Claim your tax refund online.”
Again, there are telltale warning signs, including misspellings and language urging people to click a link for help to “claim tax refund.”
The text scheme offering help to address a problem
In another recent scam, identity thieves send a text message with a name that tries to sound official, such as “govirs-accnnt2023.” A variety of messages follow, saying that there is a problem with the recipient’s tax return, but that the sender can fix the problem if the recipient clicks a link in the message.
As in other scams, there are many red flags in these text messages, including misspellings and factual inaccuracies.
The ‘delivery service’ scam at your door
The IRS is also warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new scam letter delivered in a cardboard envelope by a delivery service. The enclosed letter includes the IRS masthead and wording that the notice is “in relation to your unclaimed refund.”
What to do
People who receive these scams by email should send the email to email@example.com.
People who become victims after clicking and entering their information should report the email at firstname.lastname@example.org and should file a complaint with Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and visit www.identitytheft.gov and www.irs.gov/identity-theft-central.