IRS Warns of New Scam Offering to ‘Help’ People Set Up Online Accounts but Stealing Data Instead

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
March 23, 2023Business News
IRS Warns of New Scam Offering to ‘Help’ People Set Up Online Accounts but Stealing Data Instead
The Internal Revenue Service headquarters building in the Federal Triangle section of Washington on April 27, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a warning for taxpayers to be vigilant of scammers who attempt to sell or offer assistance in setting up an Online Account on, putting their tax and financial information at risk of identity theft.

“Scammers are coming up with new ways all the time to try to steal information from taxpayers,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, said in a statement on March 22, warning that criminals will often use this information to try to steal tax refunds.

The IRS Online Account provides key tax information to individuals. However, when this information falls into the wrong hands, identity thieves can use it to submit fraudulent tax returns in a person’s name, hoping to obtain a substantial refund.

The tax agency warned taxpayers to be cautious of scam artists offering help in setting up these accounts, as these offers are identity theft attempts aimed at stealing personal or financial information.

“Scammers are trying to convince people they need help setting up an account. In reality, no help is needed,” Werfel said. “This is just a scam to obtain valuable and sensitive tax information that scammers will use to try stealing a refund. People should be wary and avoid sharing sensitive personal data over the phone, email, or social media to avoid getting caught up in these scams.”

These third-party online account scams are part of the IRS’s annual Dirty Dozen campaign, which highlights 12 scams and schemes that pose risks to taxpayers and the tax professional community.

The list serves as a warning to taxpayers, businesses, and tax preparers about ongoing scams.

‘Relentless’ Tax Scams

In a related warning earlier this week, the IRS said that people should be on guard for phishing and smishing schemes in which cybercriminals try to steal a taxpayer’s information through scam emails or text messages.

“Email and text scams are relentless, and scammers frequently use tax season as a way of tricking people,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement.

Taxpayers and tax professionals should be alert to fake communications coming from those posing as legitimate organizations in the tax and financial community, including from people pretending to work for the IRS or other federal or state government agencies.

“With people anxious to receive the latest information about a refund or other tax issue, scammers will regularly pose as the IRS, a state tax agency, or others in the tax industry in emails and texts. People should be incredibly wary about unexpected messages like this that can be a trap, especially during filing season,” Werfel said.

These messages arrive in the form of an unsolicited text or email to lure unsuspecting victims to provide valuable personal and financial information that can lead to identity theft, the IRS warns.

The IRS initiates most contact through regular mail and will never contact taxpayers by email, text, or social media regarding a bill or tax refund, it said.

Individuals should never respond to tax-related phishing or smishing or click on links, the IRS advises.

The agency also warned taxpayers to be wary of messages that appear to be from friends or family but that are possibly stolen or compromised accounts. Individuals should verify the identity of the sender by using another communication method, such as calling a number they independently know to be accurate, not the number provided in the email or text.

A separate IRS alert issued Tuesday warned that some scammers are falsely advertising the availability of Employee Retention Credits (ERCs) to gain fraudulent refunds.

Taxpayers have been bombarded with inaccurate information on eligibility and computation of the credit, the IRS said.

The IRS cautioned that taxpayers are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the information on their tax return, and claiming the ERC when they’re ineligible could result in penalties.

“Taxpayers should remember that they are always responsible for the information reported on their tax returns,” Werfel said. “Improperly claiming this credit could result in taxpayers having to repay the credit along with potential penalties and interest.”

From The Epoch Times