On March 17, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department announced the extension of the federal income tax filing due date from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021. This decision is designed “to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig explained in a news release. But it also carries the unwanted consequence of giving scammers more time to use the urgency of a looming tax deadline in an attempt to target taxpayers.

PJ Norris, senior systems engineer at Tripwire, explained to Information Security Media Group why this turns out to be the case every year.

This is because phishing campaigns are much more successful when the message creates a sense of urgency in the recipient, who is more likely to download an attachment or click on a link without thinking twice.

Acknowledging this tradition of fraud, it’s important that taxpayers familiarize themselves with some of the scams that are circulating this tax season. Below are three ruses that have drawn the attention of the IRS itself along with recommendations on how taxpayers can protect themselves.

Scam #1: “Ghost” Preparers

At the beginning of February, the IRS warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for “ghost” tax preparers that refuse to sign the returns on which they’ve lent their assistance. This often takes the form of a preparer printing the return, at which point they instruct the taxpayer to sign and mail it. It might also involve the preparer refusing to digitally sign an e-filed return. Such behavior violates their obligation as a paid preparer to sign any return that they’ve assisted with and to include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). In not fulfilling those legal obligations, the “ghost” preparer might be trying to charge additional fees (Read more...)