Dirty Dozen: IRS warns of scammers offering “help” to set up an Online Account; creates identity theft risk for honest taxpayers
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to watch out for scammers who try to sell or offer help setting up an Online Account on IRS.gov that puts their tax and financial information at risk of identity theft.
The IRS Online Account provides valuable tax information for people. But this information in the wrong hands can provide important information to help an identity thief try to submit a fraudulent tax return in the person’s name in hopes of getting a big refund. People should watch out for these scam artists offering to help set up these accounts because these are identity theft attempts to run off with the taxpayer’s personal or financial information.
These third-party online account scams are part of day three of the IRS annual Dirty Dozencampaign.
“Scammers are coming up with new ways all the time to try to steal information from taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “An Online Account at IRS.gov can help taxpayers view important details about their tax situation. But scammers are trying to convince people they need help setting up an account. In reality, no help is needed. This is just a scam to obtain valuable and sensitive tax information that scammers will use to try stealing a refund. People should be wary and avoid sharing sensitive personal data over the phone, email or social media to avoid getting caught up in these scams.”
The Dirty Dozen is an annual IRS list of 12 scams and schemes that put taxpayers and the tax professional community at risk of losing money, personal data and more. Some items on the list are new, and some make a return visit. While the list is not a legal document or a formal listing of agency enforcement priorities, it is intended to alert taxpayers, businesses and tax preparers about scams at large.
As a member of the Security Summit, the IRS, with state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry, have taken numerous steps over the last eight years to warn people to watch out for common scams and schemes each tax season, including tax-related identity theft. Along with the Security Summit initiative, the Dirty Dozen aims to protect taxpayers, businesses and the tax system from identity thieves and various hoaxes designed to steal money and information, including this new Online Account scheme.
IRS Online Account: Steer clear of help from third-party scammers
In this scam targeting individuals, swindlers pose as a “helpful” third party and offer to help create a taxpayer’s IRS Online Account at IRS.gov. People should remember they can set these accounts up themselves. But third parties making these offers will try to steal a taxpayer’s personal information this way. Taxpayers can and should establish their own Online Account through IRS.gov.
These scammers often ask for the taxpayer’s personal information including address, Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number (ITIN) and photo identification. The criminal then sells this valuable information to other criminals. They can also use the sensitive information to file fraudulent tax returns, obtain loans and open credit accounts.
The IRS urges people to watch out for these “helpful” criminals. The only place individuals should go to create an IRS Online Account is IRS.gov. People should not use third-party assistance, other than the approved IRS authentication process through IRS.gov, to create their own IRS online account.
Help stop fraud and scams
As part of the Dirty Dozen awareness effort, the IRS encourages people to report individuals who promote improper and abusive tax schemes as well as tax return preparers who deliberately prepare improper returns.
To report an abusive tax scheme or a tax return preparer, people should mail or fax a completed Form 14242, Report Suspected Abusive Tax Promotions or Preparers and any supporting material to the IRS Lead Development Center in the Office of Promoter Investigations.
Internal Revenue Service Lead Development Center
24000 Avila Road Laguna Niguel, California 92677-3405
Alternatively, taxpayers and tax practitioners may send the information to the IRS Whistleblower Office for possible monetary reward. For more information, see Abusive Tax Schemes and Abusive Tax Return Preparers.