1. Home
  2. News
  3. Tax preparation

How to stay safe from fraud and scammers in the tax season's final innings

Experts from Norton and LifeLock weigh in with their best advice for consumers

Photo (c) Designer 491 - Getty Images
Over the course of the tax season, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned taxpayers of various tax-related scams that are floating around. With just over a month to go until the April 18 filing deadline, the risk of tax fraud and related scams is still ever-present. 

It’s more important than ever for taxpayers to be able to identify the various tax scams, as well as know what to do to protect themselves and their personal information during tax season. 

What do the scams look like? 

Earlier in the tax season, ConsumerAffairs highlighted a few of the biggest scams that pose a threat to taxpayers this time of year. 

One such scam has permeated social media and pushes the idea to taxpayers that falsifying their W2 documents is likely to yield tax returns as high as five figures. Scammers encourage the idea that manually filling out tax returns and filing electronically can help taxpayers secure higher refunds. 

Another tax-related scam involves scammers pretending to be representatives from the IRS to try to get personal information or money from taxpayers on the other end of the phone. In these instances, the agency urges taxpayers to hang up the phone and report the scam. 

“Phishing and scammers are always going to focus on what is top of mind for the public,” Steve Grobman, vice president and chief technology officer at McAfee, told ConsumerAffairs. “Whether it’s the pandemic, the job market, or tax season, we’re seeing bad actors take advantage of these moments for personal gain. 

“Right now, our threats team is seeing an uptick in tax-related scams with tens of thousands of people unknowingly clicking phishing links,” he continued. “This is not new for 2023. Every year, McAfee sees cybercriminals try to lure people with fake tax information that is disguised as reputable tax filing resources and support.” 

How to stay safe during tax season

Grobman, and fellow tax security expert David Putnam, head of Identity Protection Products for LifeLock, had more advice for ConsumerAffairs readers to stay safe in the face of scams this tax season. 

“It sounds simple, but the best way for consumers to protect themselves during tax season is to understand how the IRS works and the types of scams fraudsters use to take advantage of taxpayers,” Putnam said. “For example, IRS impersonation schemes are designed to trick people into believing the IRS has contacted them about their return or refund in order to send phishing links or gather personal information that can be used to steal your identity. It is important to know that the IRS communicates through traditional mail and will never contact you via email, phone, or text.” 

Below are Grobman’s best tips for staying safe during tax season: 

  • “Look into purchasing a locking mailbox. Mail and porch theft are still prevalent, and it’s common for thieves to harvest personal and financial information by lifting it from your mailbox.

  • Shred paper correspondence that contains personal or financial information, such as bills, medical documents, bank statements and so forth. 

  • Lock your smartphones, tablets, and computers with a PIN or password.

  • Install comprehensive security solutions on your devices. This will safeguard you in several ways, such as email filters that will protect you from phishing attacks, features that will warn you of sketchy links and downloads, plus further protection for your identity and privacy — in addition to providing overall protection from viruses, malware, and other cyberattacks.”

More tips

Similarly, Putnam shared his best tips for taxpayers to stay safe during tax season: 

  • “One of the best ways to avoid IRS scammers looking to steal your refund is by filing your taxes as early as possible. The sooner you submit your tax return, the less likely it will be that someone else can file a fraudulent return in your name. 

  • An Identity Protection Personal Identification Number or IP PIN adds a layer of security by assigning a unique PIN to your data. Much like the security code on a credit card, thieves would need this additional number to file a false return in your name. You can get your IP PIN by logging onto the Get an IP PIN tool offered by the IRS. You will have to verify your identity to do this.

  • Keep your information private and safe. Following basic cyber safety measures can help protect your personal information from savvy cybercriminals. Install security software on your devices, avoid public Wi-Fi, and use a virtual private network if possible when doing any transactions regarding your finances.

  • While the safest way to file is directly through the IRS, it is important to always use a reputable service to file your taxes. Hackers become very good at mimicking major tax prep companies through phishing emails, and ghost preparation services posing as legitimate businesses prey on unknowing taxpayers by stealing returns.”

Take a Financial Relief Quiz. Get matched with an Authorized Partner.