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Watch Out for Last-Minute Email Tax Scams, IRS Warns

The Internal Revenue Service headquarters building in Washington.

The Internal Revenue Service headquarters building in Washington. // J. David Ake/AP File Photo

With about a month left to file, the Internal Revenue Service wants taxpayers and tax preparers to be extra wary of any finance-related emails they receive.

Leading up to the April 18 due date, last-minute phishing scams—attempts to solicit sensitive personal information from recipients—are reaching their peak, the IRS warned recently.

In one such scam, criminals pose as taxpayers requesting their tax preparer change the destination of their refunds, often to a prepaid debit card. Instead of responding to any emails requesting last-minute changes like that, the IRS suggested tax preparers should confirm any major decisions about account updates with their clients verbally.

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It also recommended tax professionals change and strengthen their own account passwords; taxpayers should look out for false emails from the providers of their tax software or representatives from banks, credit card companies or even the IRS, the agency noted.

Messages asking taxpayers to update their online account with any of those groups could be fraudulent, and the IRS does not send unsolicited emails nor does it ask for sensitive data—including Social Security numbers and passwords—from taxpayers via email.

Anyone who encounters such phishing scams should forward them to phishing@irs.gov, the agency noted.

The IRS generally reminded citizens not to open attachments and links from unknown or suspicious sources because those might contain malware.

The IRS has warned about other tax-related scams recently, including one in which criminals pose as company executives asking payroll managers for internal lists of employees and their associated W-2. That information could be used to file fraudulent tax returns.

That scam is "one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement then.

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