IRS warns of 'phishing' and other last-minute scams

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This year's federal income-tax filing deadline is Tuesday, April 18. In this Jan. 14, 2017, photo, tax forms sit on a desk.

The Internal Revenue Service never calls asking for money — especially not now, right before the April 18 tax-filing date. It will always send a letter in the mail.

But taxpayers also should be wary of other types of scams. The IRS, along with state tax agencies and the tax-preparation industry, are warning of last-minute "phishing" attempts, especially emails requesting deposit changes for refunds or account updates. If you receive one, don't open the email, and certainly don't respond.

As tax-filing season winds down to Tuesday's deadline, it's also peak scamming season: Cyber-criminals evolve each year and make use of sophisticated ploys to trick people into divulging sensitive data, the IRS said in a press release.

One new scam, for example, involves posing as you, the taxpayer, asking your accountant or tax preparer to make a last-minute change to your refund destination, often to a prepaid debit card.  

"The IRS urges tax preparers to verbally reconfirm information with the client should they receive a last-minute email request to change an address or direct deposit account for refunds," the agency said.

It also suggests strengthening email passwords to better protect accounts used to exchange sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, bank account information or credit-card numbers.

If you receive suspicious emails purporting to be from a tax-software provider or from the IRS, forward them to phishing@irs.gov.

Get an extension, or make a payment. Taxpayers seeking extensions can download, print and file a paper Form 4868 from IRS.gov/forms. The form must be mailed to the IRS with a postmark on or before April 18. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay, however — you must submit an estimated tax payment with Form 4868.

To get a filing extension, taxpayers also can use Free File.  Or they can pay all or part of the estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a credit or debit card.