Be alert to tax scams
Tax season is back, and so are all those predatory fraudsters who strike with clever tax-related scams this time of year. Avoid falling prey with these tips.
First - remember that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Send unsolicited emails to the public or email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript, which is a summary of a tax return. In fact, the IRS urges taxpayers not to open the email or the attachment. If using a personal computer, delete or forward the scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you see an email like this while using your employer’s computer, notify the company’s technology professionals.
Examples of tax fraud include:
Callers pretending to be from the IRS
The IRS has seen an increase in phone scams in which the callers say they are from the IRS and tell the victim they are either entitled to a large refund or that they owe money. The callers ask for personal information to "send the refund" (only to steal the victim's information to commit identity theft). For scams that try to steal money "owed," the caller may threaten arrest or a driver's license revocation if personal information or payment is not supplied. Sophisticated operations may even have a follow-up call from the "police" or "motor vehicle department" - a false caller ID may even support this claim.
If you get a call claiming to be from the IRS, do not give out personal information such as your Social Security number or financial account details. Call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to see if there really is a payment issue.
A phishing scam attempts to hook the victim through an unsolicited email or website link that takes the reader to a phony website requesting personal information. The email and/or website may look legitimate, but the IRS will never contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This also includes text messages or social media channels. Do not reply or click on links if you receive an email or text message claiming to be from the IRS. For more information on phishing scams, please see Suspicious e-mails and Identity Theft.
If a thief obtains your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number or other identifying information, they could try to use your identity to file a tax return and claim a refund. Guard your personal information at all times. Some homeowner policies include identity theft services. Speak with your agent for more detail. If you suspect your tax account could be at risk, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Return preparer fraud
Most tax preparers provide honest service, but choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to help you prepare your return. A dishonest preparer could be out to commit refund fraud or identity theft. Only use preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Numbers.
Stay on guard
The IRS has several resources to help taxpayers with tax return questions as well as preventing and reporting fraud. For more information on tax scams, please see tax scams/consumer alerts.