Skip to content

IRS Warns of "Elaborate Scam" to Steal Your Tax Refund in New Alert

The agency says thieves may try to poach your online account by offering to help.

Now that the April 15 deadline is quickly approaching, anyone who hasn't already sent in their documents to the IRS should be making arrangements to file their taxes. For most people, the thought of making a mistake or accidentally forgetting a critical document looms large over the process. But now, the IRS is also warning that thieves are using an "elaborate scam" to attempt to steal your tax refund.

RELATED: IRS Issues Final Reminder for Nearly 1 Million Tax Refunds: "Time Is Running Out."

In an April 1 press release, the agency issued an updated alert to raise awareness about criminal attempts to hijack taxpayers' online accounts under the guise of setting one up or offering help filing. Once the scammer has access to the portal, they can use it to pull personal information and commit identity theft.

"As the IRS and the Security Summit partners strengthen our internal defenses, scammers evolve to come up with new ways to try to steal valuable information from taxpayers," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said, per the release. "An Online Account at can help taxpayers view important details about their tax situation. But scammers have realized the sensitive information there is valuable to them, so they're now focusing on tricking people that they need help setting up an account."

The agency said that in many cases, a sinister third party will advertise services or approach people about simplifying signing up for an online account. This then gives them access to everything from their address and Social Security number to photo ID and other sensitive details.

"Any of the process that you'd go through to set up an account or check on a refund or just to look at payments that you've made, all of that would start at," IRS spokesperson Eric Smith told CNBC. "If someone contacts you saying, 'We'll help you set up an IRS account and send us all of your information,' that's bogus."

Unfortunately, this type of crime is on the rise. The IRS says it received 294,138 reports of identity theft in 2023, making it the second worst year in its history and totaling over $5.5 billion in tax fraud, CNBC reports.

The agency says that taxpayers should never agree to have someone else set up their online account on their behalf. Instead, they should use the agency's official website to set up their accounts for themselves to avoid missing out on any money that might be coming back to them.

"This is just an elaborate scam designed to obtain valuable and sensitive tax information that scammers will use to try to steal a refund," Werfel warned in the press release. "This is another reminder that people should be wary of unexpected reach-outs from the IRS and other financial institutions. Taxpayers should avoid sharing sensitive personal data over the phone, email, or social media to protect themselves and avoid getting caught up in these scams."

The IRS also urges anyone who thinks a scammer has targeted them to report the activity by filling out Form 14242 and submitting it via mail or the agency's website.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under
 •  •
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source: