Tax scams you need to watch out for in 2019

Updated February 18, 2019
Tax scams you need to watch out for in 2019

Tax season is here.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officially began accepting tax returns on January 28, 2019.  As the April 15 deadline approaches, more and more criminals are out trolling for their next victim.  Make sure you don’t become a victim this tax season. 

Here are some of the most common tax scams that have surfaced over the years.

Tax-refund fraud

irs scam Many Americans look forward to receiving a tax refund every year and the criminals want a piece of the action, too.  Here’s how this scam works.  Crooks steal people’s Social Security number and then file false returns as those individuals.  The crooks usually file with a low income and high deductions, and they file electronically. Then when the real person files their return, it is rejected by the IRS with the statement that a tax return has been already received with their Social Security number.  

If you can, file early before a criminal files one in your name.  Consider requesting an IP PIN from the IRS.  An IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of their Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns.  If you filed a federal tax return last year in California, you are eligible, upon request, to receive an IP PIN.  Visit for more information.

Generic IRS phone scam

In this scam the criminal calls their victim to demand payment for an overdue tax bill for which payment must be made immediately. Unless payment is received, an arrest warrant will be issued by the police.  The scammers use phone spoofing to make it appear that the call is coming from the IRS. The caller seems legitimate since they have the last four digits of your Social Security number.  They may even call a second time claiming to be from your local police department or follow-up with an email.  Payment is requested using a prepaid debit card, gift cards, or by wire. To check the validity of any information you receive from someone claiming to be the IRS, visit or call the phone number listed on the IRS website.

Supposed refund scam

The possible victim gets an e-mail that looks like it legitimately came from the IRS promising a large refund.  All the person needs to do is send in their Social Security number and bank account information.  The IRS will then directly deposit the fake refund into your account.  Guard your Social Security number and bank account information


Criminals are always looking for new ways to swindle people out of their money.  With tax season upon us, it is even more important to be diligent about protecting your personal information.  Remember, the IRS will never ask for payment via gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or by wire.  The IRS will never ask for money via phone.  They initiate all communication through U.S. mail.  If you have questions regarding your own tax situation, contact the IRS directly.