OAKLAND – Ahead of Tax Day, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert warning Californians about common tax fraud scams that are particularly prevalent during tax season. Tax fraud scams are a variety of scams commonly known as government imposter scams, which occur when a person claims to be a government employee in order to obtain a victim’s personal information or for financial gain. This can occur through various forms of communication including phone calls, text messages, email, social media, or mail. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta provides Californians filing taxes with tips to avoid falling victim to tax fraud scams and other government imposter scams.
“Year after year, scammers see tax season as an opportunity to take advantage of California taxpayers, steal their personal information, and jeopardize their finances,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This tax season, I urge all Californians to take steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of tax fraud.”
Types of Tax Fraud Scams
Tax-related scams take on various forms and show up every year, especially around tax season. The most common tax-related scams include:
- Fake IRS Phone Calls Demanding Money: Scammers will call you claiming that they are from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and say that you owe them money. The scammer will harass you and use high-pressure tactics claiming that you will be arrested, deported, or will lose your driver’s license if you don’t pay right now. Sometimes the scammer will even know your Social Security number or fake the caller ID so that it looks like they are calling from the IRS or FTB. They may even make follow-up calls that look like they are from the police or DMV.
- Fake IRS Emails: Scammers will send out "phishing" emails that look like they are from the IRS or FTB and claim that you either owe money or are due a refund. They will include links to official-looking websites and ask for either money outright or personal information that will allow them to steal your identity.
- Stolen Refunds: Identity thieves will use stolen personal information to file false tax returns in your name and steal your refunds. Scammers will usually file early in the tax season, before you get to it. You won’t learn about the theft until you try to file your taxes.
Protect Yourself from Tax Fraud Scams
- Protect your personal information: Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account information, to someone you do not know.
- Be wary of unsolicited communication: As a rule of thumb, real government officials will never ask for payment in the form of gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, Internet currency, or by mailing cash.
- Hang up the phone: While in some cases the IRS or FTB may call a person who owes taxes, the agencies only do so after they have tried to contact you by mail. If you suspect a scam call, immediately hang up or do not respond. The longer you stay on the line, the more likely you are to fall victim to a scam.
- Find a trusted tax preparer: To confirm whether your tax preparer is registered with the IRS, check here. Visit the Better Business Bureau and other review sites to compare consumer reviews and complaints. To make a complaint with the IRS about a tax preparer, click here.
- File your own taxes: Depending on your income, you may be eligible to file your taxes for free using guided tax preparation software. Click here for a list of IRS Free File partners.
- Use a strong password: When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, be sure to use a unique strong password for your online filing accounts. A strong password is eight or more characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols. Use a unique password for each of your tax filing accounts.
- Never sign a blank return: Do not use a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank tax form.
- Talk to friends and family: Always seek a second opinion from your friends and family.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to safeguarding the assets and finances of Californians from fraudulent individuals. Last month, Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert reminding California military service members, veterans, and families about their financial protections under California law. In February, Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert warning Californians to beware of romance scams, reminding Californians to exercise caution in their dealings with strangers online.
The filing deadline to submit 2022 tax returns for most taxpayers is April 18, 2023. If you suspect you have been a victim of a tax-related scam, report the scam and any losses to the Internal Revenue Service and/or the California Franchise Tax Board. For more information and resources on tax fraud and other government imposter scams, visit our website at www.oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/taxes.