More heat to worry about: Three very hot IRS scams

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Employee Retention Credit? Be careful. Very.

The summer heat isn’t relinquishing a bit and neither are identity thieves. Scammers continue to send out a barrage of emails and texts promising refunds or offering to 'fix' tax problems – a problem concerning enough that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers to keep their eyes open for a new surge of tax scams.

The biggest scheme: More Economic Impact Payments

There are a variety of topics covered in the latest email schemes, but the biggest revolves around promises of a third round of Economic Impact Payments. The IRS says most of the attempts include an embedded URL link that takes people to phishing websites to steal sensitive taxpayer information.

The reality is that the “third round” of Economic Impact Payments occurred more than two years ago.

And while the scheme actually started then, it worked its magic so well that scammers feel with most of us feeling a little pinched economically, that it’s still got some legs. The IRS says all the scammers have done is adjust some of the messaging and design to make it look like a 2023 program.

'Don’t forget to claim your refund' scams

A second scam troubling the IRS is built around emails urging people to "Claim your tax refund online" and text messages saying their tax returns were "banned." Despite spelling mistakes and clumsy phrasing, these scams are putting all their eggs in the design basket trying to entice people to click on a link.

Here’s an example of what the scam looks like, including the five spelling/grammar mistakes:


"Dear Tax Payer, We hope this message finds you well. We are writing to inform you abount an important matter regarding your recent tax return filing. Our record indicate that we have received your tax return for the fiscal inconsistencies or missing information that require your attention and clarification. You will receive a tax refund of $976.00 , We will process this amount once you have submitted the document we need for the steps to claim your tax refund.

There’s actually a variation of this scam that you should be aware of, too. It has a blue headline stating that people should "Claim your tax refund online."

Again, this variation is loaded with obvious warning signs – more misspellings and a hefty nudge to try and get the recipient to click a link for help to "claim tax refund." Here's an example:

"We cheked an error in the calculation of your tax from the last payment, amounting to $ 927,22. In order for us to return the excess payment, you need to create a E-Refund after which the funds will be credited to your specified bank. Please click below to claim your tax refund. If we are unable to complete within 3 days, all pending will be cancelled."

'You may be eligible for the ERC' emails

An increase in false Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claims has been observed by the IRS, too. If you’re not familiar with the program, Employee Retention Tax Credits, were pandemic-related tax credits available only to select employers.

The trick scammers are trying to pull off is getting someone to improperly claim ERCs. The messages are sent online, in social media, on the radio, or through unsolicited phone calls, emails and mailings.

These scams are a bit more involved and have enough going for them to seem like the real deal, but the IRS says there are several things taxpayers should be aware of that are earmarks of the scam:

  • False claims about a company's legitimacy, including not being willing to discuss key eligibility factors, limitations, and income tax implications that affect an employer's tax return

  • Promoters who claim to be able to determine someone's eligibility without details

  • Promoters who charge up-front fees.

  • "Immediate attention." ERCs don't require any such thing.

WARNING: If you take the bait on this scam, YOU LOSE! “Anyone who improperly claims the ERC must pay it back, possibly with penalties and interest,” the IRS said.

Eligible employers who need help claiming the ERC should work with a trusted tax professional. False ERC claims were so widespread this year that the IRS added them to its annual Dirty Dozen list of tax scams.

If you think you’re due any Employee Retention Credit, save yourself a headache and a half and check out the real details about eligibility, how to properly claim the credit, and how to report promoters at Employee Retention Credit.

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