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TDCI Reminds Consumers to Be on Alert for Common Tax Scams

Thursday, April 12, 2018 | 02:08pm

NASHVILLE – With the April 17 tax deadline just days away, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is reminding Tennesseans to be on the look out for consumer scams which involve criminals pretending to be affiliated with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Federal Trade Commission recently found that employment and tax-related fraud was the No. 2 source of reported identity theft last year in Tennessee and the nation. Nationally, there were over 82,000 reports of employment or tax-related fraud as a source of identity theft, and scammers targeted consumers of all ages, ranging from teenagers to octogenarians. 

“As the tax-filing deadline gets closer, thieves will intensify efforts to con people out of their tax refunds,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We urge Tennesseans to be familiar with common tax-scam tactics and beware of impostors posing as IRS employees. It’s important to remember that the IRS will never call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.”

TDCI and the IRS encourage consumers to be on alert for the following common tax scams:


‘IRS Refunds’ Email

The “IRS Refunds” scam is a common tactic used by cybercriminals to trick people into opening a link or attachment associated with the email that takes people to a fake page where thieves try to steal personally identifiable information, such as a Social Security number (SSN). Often these links or attachments also secretly download malware that can perform many functions, such as giving the thief control of the computer or tracking keystrokes to determine other sensitive passwords or critical data. Find out more about the IRS refunds scam email here. If someone has stolen your SSN to file a tax return and claim your refund, visit to electronically file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit.

Erroneous Refund Scam

After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, criminals use the taxpayers' real bank accounts for the deposit. Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, and their versions of the scam may continue to evolve. Found out more about the erroneous refund scam here.

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.                                         

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request. For more details on this scam, see: Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again.

Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Taxpayers are urged not to trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity. For details, see the IRS video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service

Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams


  • TDCI reminds consumers that the IRS will never:
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
  • Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.                                                                  
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes. Taxpayers should make check payments to the “United States Treasury” or review for IRS online options.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying. 
  • Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. Consumers can find more detailed information about tax refund scams by visiting the IRS website.

Consumers can find more detailed information about tax refund scams by visiting the IRS website.

For more consumer tips and resources, visit