Tax scams to watch out for in 2020

Updated February 29, 2020
Tax scams to watch for in 2020
Here are some top tax scams to look out for in 2020

The tax season is well underway, and criminals are busy trying different scams to get your money or personal information.  Here are some top tax scams ( to look out for in 2020.

Tax-refund fraud
During the last few years, crooks have been stealing people’s Social Security numbers and then filing false returns as though they were those people.The crooks typically claim a low income with high deductions and they file electronically. When you go to legitimately file your return, it’s rejected by the IRS because somebody else already filed as you.

What can you do to protect yourself from this scam?   You can get an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS before you file your taxes. The IP PIN is a six-digit number that must be used on a tax return, in addition to a Social Security number, to verify the identity of a taxpayer.  Once you opt into the program you can’t opt out. If you qualify, you will get a new PIN each year through the mail.  Visit to opt in.

Don’t let your tax preparer ‘ghost’ you.
The IRS warns of a new scam that involves tax preparers who don’t sign off when they prepare your tax return for a fee. Any tax preparer who fails to sign and include their valid “Preparer Tax ID Number” is violating the law. If they fail to do so, they “may be looking to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund,” according to the IRS.

Other signs you’re being “ghosted” include:

  • Asking for cash payment and not providing a receipt.
  • Falsifying income info on your return to get tax credits.
  • Making up fake deductions to boost the size of your refund.
  • Sending clients’ direct deposit refunds to their own bank accounts.

Generic IRS phone scam
Woman on phone worriedThe premise here is that you have a surprise tax bill you need to pay immediately to the IRS or you’ll be arrested. The scammers use phone spoofing to make their number come up on your phone as “IRS.” Because they already may have the last four digits of your Social Security number, that gives them a further air of legitimacy.

Here are some of their other tactics to watch out for:

  • They use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • They send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • They call a second time claiming to be the police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

IRS iTunes scam
A 20-year-old college student was duped by someone claiming to represent the IRS into putting $500 on three separate iTunes cards and $262 on a fourth, all using her debit card. Why would the student do this? Because she was threatened with arrest.

With the iTunes gift card scam, the thieves ask you to put money on the card and then read them the 16-digit code off the back. That allows them to quickly access the cash in a way that’s untraceable in most cases.

These are just a few tactics that criminals use to scam you out of your money.  If you suspect you are a victim of tax identity theft, contact the IRS at or 1-800-829-1040.

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