IRS: Identity Theft Tops 2012 ‘Dirty Dozen’ Tax Scams


The Internal Revenue Service has released its annual “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, and identity theft has earned the no. 1 spot in this year’s ranking.

Taxpayers may encounter the 12 scams at any point during the year, but most peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns.

“Taxpayers should be careful and avoid falling into a trap with the dirty dozen,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Scam artists will tempt people in-person, online, and by email with misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. Don’t be fooled by these scams.”

Scarier still, the IRS says identity-theft cases are “the most complex ones” because identity thieves look for ways to use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.

That’s why the IRS says it has embarked on a “comprehensive strategy” that is focused on preventing, detecting, and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. It has also stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued.

An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first tip off the individual receives that he or she has been victimized.

Other Scams

The IRS list includes other scams involving Social Security and phishing emails.

For example, scammers have been known to lure the unsuspecting with promises of non-existent Social Security refunds or rebates.

In the case of phishing, our site has previously noted that it is carried out with the help of an unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft.

Other scams on the IRS list include hiding offshore accounts, preparer tax fraud, and reporting false income.

Stopping Scams In Their Tracks

Keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media accounts to request personal or financial information.

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, report it by sending it to

If personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes, visit the IRS identity-theft page at


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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.