list of tax scamsThe IRS has again released its annual “dirty dozen” list of tax scams for 2017, and while it contains the usual suspects, like phone scams and tax identity theft, this year there’s a new scam topping the list – phishing. Given that the IRS has been warning of these phishing scams since the beginning of this tax season (and earlier), this development should come as no surprise. Still, the excessive and rampant presence of phishing scams doesn’t mean the rest of the dirty dozen tax scams are any less dangerous or any less likely to affect you. Here’s what to know about the worse of these scams.

Phishing scammers are just getting started

Given the rise in popularity of phishing over the last year and its successful deployment during last year’s tax season, it’s very likely that tax-related phishing scams are here to stay. While phishing was always pretty high on the IRS’ dirty dozen list, this marks the first time since 2009 that phishing has topped the list, and for good reason – the IRS claims there has been a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents. Your greatest option for dealing with these scams is to prepare yourself and your company by learning the best cybersecurity practices and implementing cybersecurity trainings at your company.

Phone scams are as popular as ever

While phishing scams have taken off, phone scams will ways be the bread and butter of tax scammers. As such, it’s important to be on the lookout for phone calls from someone saying they represent your tax preparer or claiming they are an employee of the IRS – almost always, this is a scam. That said, as of last year, the FAST Act will permit private collection agencies to reach out to taxpayers with back owed taxes, which means there is a chance the caller may be legitimate. Keep in mind, simply because someone appears to be a legitimate representative of the organization they claim to be associated with, doesn’t mean they are. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially when you’re confused or need clarification, and know your rights when dealing with debt collectors. Should anyone disregard these rights, they’re probably a scammer. Also, if you’re unsure of the legitimacy of the call, don’t be afraid to hang up the phone and call the IRS to find out if the caller is who they claim to be.

Tax identity theft is still the end game

While tax identity theft didn’t top the list this year, it’s still the end game of most scammers, and all of the methods discussed here provide scammers with a golden opportunity to be in a position to commit it. Worse yet, the information gained from any of these scams can be used at any time. As we pointed out in our W-2 phishing blog post, the dark web is filled with W-2s from last year ready to be bought and filed at any time by scammers — usually the scammer will scrub the information to file a fraudulent return. The only preventive action you can take against tax identity theft is to plan on filing your legitimate tax return as early as possible.

Make sure to avoid the classic cons

Older scams, like fake charities and fake tax preparers are less reported on, but they are still making the IRS’ dirty dozen. Make sure to check the tax status of any charitable organization you donate to and also verify that any tax preparer you work with is legitimately certified.

If you’re looking to avoid scams this tax season, take a look at our scams blog, which provides information on some of the latest ways fraudsters are targeting potential victims.