It's not hard to believe that tax season is a scary time.

We're all stressed out over tax filing. What is hard to believe is the new component of tax time, identity theft and scams. We're hearing more and more stories about peoples refunds already taken by a scammer.

In order to help all us Michiganders, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a consumer alert with tips for Michigan residents to avoid IRS scams and tax-related identity theft.  

The alert, issued through Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division, advises consumers that the IRS will never contact them through e-mail or with a phone call.  Calls or e-mails claiming to be the IRS and requesting personal information are fraudulent.

Schuette noted that anybody contacting a consumer claiming to be from the IRS and asking for personal identifying information is a crook.  He encourages consumers to report fraudulent IRS e-mails or phone calls to the IRS.

Beware of These Common IRS Phone and E-mail Scams

  1. Back Taxes or Penalty Phone Call -- These high pressure calls threaten legal action that can only be avoided by immediate payment.  Payment must be made by difficult-to-trace Green Dot or similar money transfer methods.
  2. Rebate Phone Call -- Aimed at seniors, the caller identifies himself as an IRS employee and tells the targeted victim that he or she is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing taxes early.  The fake IRS employee requests bank account information for direct deposit of the rebate.
  3. Paper Check Phone Call -– A fake IRS employee indicates the IRS sent a check that has not been cashed and the IRS needs to verify the individual's bank account number.  The only way the IRS collects bank account details is if consumers choose to put them on their tax return.
  4. Refund E-mail -– Falsely claims to come from the IRS and informing the recipient to click on a link to access a refund claim form that requires personal identifying information.  The crooks try to make this look legitimate by using a specific refund sum that sounds convincing.
  5. Audit E-mail –- Informs the recipient that his or her tax return will be audited.  The e-mail may include a greeting in the body addressed to the specific recipient by name.
  6. Tax Law Changes E-mail –- Invites the recipient to download information on tax law changes.  Clicking on the link downloads malicious software also known as malware. For more information on the dangers of malware please view Schuette’s consumer alert: Malware – What Is It and How To Avoid It.
  7. Cash Reward for Completing Online Customer Satisfaction Survey –- Purports to pay taxpayers for completing an online survey that, of course, includes questions asking for personal identifying information.

The IRS will never initiate an e-mail to a taxpayer so e-mails purporting to be from the IRS are fraudulent.  Consumers should be on the lookout for the following tricks:

  • The official IRS logo.
  • Whole sections of text from the IRS's website.
  • A fake "from" address (reported Michigan variations include: irs@getrefundnow. com, support@irs. gov, service@irs. jg. gov, tax-refunds@irs. gov and other variations on the irs. gov theme).
  • Forms with numbers similar to those the IRS already uses, often with a jumble of numbers and letters.

If an e-mail purports to be from the IRS consumers should forward e-mails to phishing@irs.gov, the address established by the IRS to receive, track, and shut down these scams.  It is important to remember the only genuine IRS website is www.irs.gov.

Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a consumer’s stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. The IRS is often the first to inform a victim that identity theft has occurred.  Victims should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, report the fraud and ask for ID Theft Affidavit Form 1439. After completing the form, consumers should continue to file their tax return and pay any amount owed even if it must be done through the paper method.

One of the most effective ways consumers may thwart this type of identity theft is to file tax return as soon as possible.

Additional identity theft prevention measures are outlined in Schuette’s Identity Theft Information for Michigan Consumers consumer alert,

To access the full Attorney General Consumer Alert, “IRS Scams & Tax-Related I.D. Theft,” visit: http://1.usa.gov/1EaPsiv.

For general consumer protection questions or complaints, you may reach the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:

P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Phone: (517) 373-1140
Fax: (517) 241-3771
Toll free:(877) 765-8388
www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)