Tax Scams Surge this Summer by Brandon Bowers

Posted on August 16, 2023 by Brandon Bowers

Tax-related scams cast a dark cloud over this summer’s blue skies, putting taxpayers at increased risk of identity theft and fraud. To avoid falling victim to these scams, individuals should be alert to unsolicited telephone calls, emails and texts asking them to click links or share personal information, such as usernames and passwords, Social Security Numbers and financial account details.

According to the IRS, the most common scams this summer include the following:

Economic Impact Payment Schemes

Criminals posing as the IRS send emails to victims with a subject line referring to a “third round of economic impact payments,” even though these pandemic-related stimulus payments ended in 2021. The emails, often riddled with misspellings, promise tax refunds to recipients who click on a link to “complete their application.” However, the link takes victims to a website where identity thieves attempt to harvest valuable personal information.

Employee Retention Credit Scams

Schemers use the telephone, email, social media and U.S. mail to lure taxpayers into falsely claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), which is available to qualifying businesses that maintained their workforce despite suffering interruptions to normal operations during the pandemic.  However, the scammers make false claims about victims’ eligibility to claim the credit and require up-front fees for their services or a percentage of the credit victims receive.

If you believe you are due a tax credit, deduction or refund, contact your trusted CPAs and advisors to assess your eligibility without charging additional fees. Moreover, remember that qualified tax professionals will never base their fees on a percentage of a refund, nor would they promise larger refunds than other tax preparers.

Claim Your Tax Refund Scams

In recent weeks, taxpayers have been hit with a stream of emails urging them to claim their tax refunds online. However, the message includes a link that actually takes victims to a website where identity thieves can access the personally identifiable information they key into the site.

If you think you are due a refund or qualify for a tax credit, you should contact your tax accountant first. It is also important to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer via email.

Help You Fix It Scheme

In this latest scheme, criminals send texts with an official name, such as “govirs-accnnt2023,” telling victims of a problem with their tax returns. The texts include a link where victims can get help fixing their returns.

Again, it is essential to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer via text message. Contact your accountant if you believe there is a problem with your tax return.

“Delivery Service” Scams

In July, the IRS warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new refund scam in which criminals mail to victims a cardboard envelope that looks like it comes from a delivery service. A letter inside the envelope looks like it came from the IRS and notes that the mailing is “in relation to your unclaimed refund.”

If you receive any messages that appear to come from the IRS, your first response should be to call a professional tax accountant who understands the nuances of the tax law and can confirm or refute any claims about your personal tax matters.

The IRS also warns taxpayers to be wary of messages that appear to come from friends or family but are possibly stolen or compromised email or text accounts from someone they know. You can confirm the identity of known senders by using another communication method, such as calling a telephone number you independently know to be accurate rather than the number provided in the email or text.

Finally, you should work with experienced IT professionals to put in place the protective controls needed to help you reduce and even prevent these messages from reaching you.

About the Author: Brandon Bowers is director of Managed Cyber Solutions with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, where he provides businesses, professional services firms and family offices with business continuity and recovery, cybersecurity and fully outsourced help desk services. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000 or