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By Heritage Bank on September 30, 2022
3 minute read

Timely Tips for Recognizing Tax Scams

Here are 4 common scams to watch out for this tax season, plus scam prevention tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones

It’s been said only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Unfortunately, there’s a third certainty that comes with the second — tax scammers.

Every spring, they count on taxpayers like you to feel overwhelmed, confused or just plain exhausted by the complexities of tax season.

Many use tried-and-true phishing methods, whether online or by phone, to try to get you to reveal important personal information like your bank account or Social Security Number.

Let’s take a look at how these criminals operate and how you can protect yourself.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a tactic that involves tricking you into disclosing your information. Phishers might use fraudulent emails or phone calls or direct you to websites that can infect your device with malware.

A hallmark of phishing is creating a false sense of urgency. Phishing emails are often written with a threatening tone meant to pressure you into acting out of fear. You must act right now to claim your refund or settle an outstanding tax debt!

 Such emails often look like they come from a reputable institution, like your bank or even the IRS. Similarly, phone calls can be spoofed to look as though they’re coming from a legitimate number that prompts you to answer.

Watch Out for These Scams

Refund calculation scam. The message will try to convince you that the IRS found an error in your tax return and owes you additional money. Great news, right? Not so fast. Their next step is to ask you for your bank account information — but they won’t be making a deposit.

Verification scam. Scammers might tell you they need to verify your W-2 and other personal information in order to process your tax filing or refund. They want you to take pictures of your driver’s license, birth certificate or other personal documents. Of course, this is all just a ruse to steal not only your money, but your identity.

Gift card scam. This is where the threats get serious. Callers or emails insist you owe back taxes and will face federal prosecution if you don’t immediately pay your penalty. They then direct you to purchase gift cards and send them to the so-called “IRS” to clear your record. In fact, you’re just wasting your money and sending it to thieves.

Fake tax preparers. Any tax preparer whose price seems too good to be true and/or who refuses to sign the returns they prepare is probably just out to steal from you. They might file fraudulent tax returns in your name, then redirect your refund to themselves or try to access your bank accounts.

How to Protect Yourself

      • Never use public Wi-Fi — like at the library or a coffee shop, for example — to file your taxes or conduct online banking. Only connect to networks you trust.
      • Never send sensitive information to anyone via email. And if you receive a suspicious email, do not send any form of reply.
      • Know how the IRS operates. Their first point of contact with you will be via postal mail. The IRS will not contact you via email, text or social media. Any business you conduct online with the IRS will be through the gov website. Also, the IRS does not accept payment in gift cards, and real IRS representatives always carry two forms of official credentials.
      • Be smart about choosing a tax preparer. Do not work with a tax preparer who only accepts cash payments or who is eager to “help” you by claiming fake deductions. Use only a preparer who can provide you with their Tax Preparer Identification, which you can verify on the IRS website.
      • Secure your identity. Get an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS to prevent someone else from filing a tax return in your name.

What to Do If You Get Scammed

Hopefully you’ll never need this information, but the fact is, criminals are clever. They know how to press the right buttons to take advantage of hardworking people like you.

You might discover you’ve been scammed if:

      • You try to file your tax return and are informed by the IRS that they’ve already received one from you.
      • You are informed by the IRS that an account has been registered in your name at without your knowledge.
      • You receive a transcript from the IRS that you did not request.

If any of these things happens to you, stay calm. Visit to report the situation and create a recovery plan. For information specific to tax-related identity theft, visit the IRS’ Identity Theft Central page.

Staying ahead of scammers is easier when you have a trusted banking partner looking out for you and your interests. Check out Heritage Bank’s free resources to learn more about recognizing scams and fraud.

Heritage Bank. Member FDIC.


Published by Heritage Bank September 30, 2022