It’s tax season and time to be on guard for tax scams. They come in many forms, and it’s important to learn how to recognize them before you accidently fall for one. Let’s walk through a few.
Identity thieves pose as IRS agents and attempt to trick you into giving them your credit card or personal identifiable information. They may go as far as to set up fake phone numbers that appear to be from the IRS on your caller ID. This is known as caller ID spoofing. The thieves often threaten audits, deportation and legal action if you don’t comply immediately with their requests. They may also try a softer approach and promise you a check for unclaimed funds. Don’t be fooled.
The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. They also do not demand people to use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Nor will they ask for an immediate tax payment, demanding you give them your debit or credit information over the phone.
Don’t give out personal identifiable information or credit card information to anyone without first verifying the identity of the caller. You can call or visit your local IRS office to check if they are, in fact, trying to contact you.
Phishing & Online Scams
Phishing is when you receive an unsolicited email or text pretending to be a legitimate company or government agency like the IRS. Links in these emails or texts often direct you to fake websites, which then prompt you to enter personal identifiable information or to click on a link that downloads malware onto your computer.
The IRS never initiates contact by email, text or social media to request personal information. If you receive an email or text claiming to be from the IRS, do not reply. Do not open any attachments or click on any links. Contact the IRS directly, via your local office or through IRS.gov. The IRS encourages people to forward suspicious emails as-is to email@example.com and then delete the original email.
Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number (SSN), to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. You may not realize you are a victim until you try to e-file your return and cannot because of a duplicate SSN on file. You might also receive an IRS notice stating that an account has been created in your name or that your online account has been accessed. See a full list of identity theft red flags at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft,
To help protect against identity theft, treat your personal information, including passwords, like cash. Don’t leave your information lying around or your passwords auto-saved on a website. Keep your computer security software up to date and use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication when offered. The IRS also offers an identity protection PIN as an additional protective step. You can learn more about it at https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin.
Stay alert this tax season.
Thieves are on the prowl, looking for an easy payday. Guard your personal information and do not be intimidated to act quickly in fear. Always validate callers, emails and text sources by contacting the IRS directly via your local IRS office or through IRS.gov. Learn more about tax scams and the dirty dozen worst tax scams at IRS.gov.