Protect yourself from falling victim to identity theft thieves or to tax return preparers who urge you to claim tax credits on your tax return for which you’re not really eligible. Phishing Scammers often try to steal their victims’ identities by sending them phony e-mails which claim to come from trusted sources, such as well-known financial institutions or government agencies (including the IRS), and ask them for detailed personal and financial information. This practice is known as “phishing.” The information requested is used by the scammers to gain access to the victims’ bank accounts, open new credit cards in their victims’ names and get cash advances, and more. Find out more about phishing, identity theft and current phishing schemes. First-Time Homebuyer Tax Fraud The IRS has begun to investigate tax returns that falsely claim the first-time homebuyer tax credit. The first-time homebuyer credit, originally passed in 2008 and modified in 2009, provides up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers. The purchaser must qualify as a first-time homebuyer, which, for purposes of claiming this credit, is someone who has not owned a primary residence in the past three years. If the taxpayer is married, this requirement also applies to the taxpayer’s spouse. The home purchase must close before Dec. 1, 2009, to qualify. The credit may not be claimed on the purchaser’s tax return until after the taxpayer actually closes and has purchased the home. Different rules apply for homes bought in 2008. People who don’t meet the requirements for claiming the credit shouldn’t claim it, even if their tax return preparer urges it. Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return, even when the return is prepared by someone other than the taxpayer. Find out more about tax fraud and the first-time homebuyer credit.