WASHINGTON Identity theft and phishing top the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) list of "dirty dozen" scams, which tend to peak this time of year as millions of Americans gear up to file their tax returns.
"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," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a statement on Thursday.
While the "dirty dozen" schemes are common year round, many occur most frequently during tax filing season, the IRS said. The filing deadline for 2011 taxes is April 17.
The IRS did not give figures in its annual list for the amount stolen or not paid through scams.
Identity theft occurs when thieves use a taxpayer's identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.
The IRS blocked more than $1.4 billion from going to the wrong person last year through identity theft, the statement said.
Phishing is usually carried out through an unsolicited email or a fake website to lure potential victims and prompt them to provide personal and financial information.
"Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft," the statement said.
Among other scams, about 30,000 people have voluntarily disclosed foreign financial accounts since 2009 under a program to pay taxes on money returned to the United States.
The program was reopened this year. The IRS has collected about $3.4 billion under the 2009 program, and another $1 billion in upfront payments under a 2011 program.
The "dirty dozen" list is rounded out by:
-- fraud by return preparers
-- scams promising "free money" from the IRS or tax schemes involving Social Security
-- false or inflated income and expenses
-- false claims for refunds from Form 1099, which reports income other than wages, salaries and tips
-- frivolous arguments
-- falsely claiming zero wages
-- abuse of charitable organizations and deductions
-- disguised corporate ownership
-- misuse of trusts.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch)