Tax season is here, and it’s crucial to watch out for common tax scams. During the past nine years, more than $23 million has been lost to tax scams, according to the IRS.
Here are two scams to be aware of, and a few tips on how to avoid them.
There is a common tax scam in which someone calls and claims to be from the IRS.
Fraudsters use fake names and IRS identification numbers. Using sophisticated technology, they display their phone number on caller ID as if it came from the IRS.
Victims are told that they owe the IRS money. They are then instructed to pay the balance by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card.
Scammers use this technique frequently. Money that has been converted into a gift card or prepaid debit card cannot be recovered after it has been sent. A wire transfer is the same; it disappears once the money is sent.
Scammers threaten their victims with arrest, deportation, or having their business or driver’s license cancelled if they do not promptly pay what they owe.
The scammer may tell the victim that they’re due a tax refund to get them to reveal their personal and financial information.
How do you know this is a scam?
If you owe money to the IRS, you will receive a letter or notice.
They never demand immediate payment over the phone. There is no request that you pay your balance with gift cards or through a wire transfer. IRS agents will not threaten or harass you.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS stating that you owe money, hang up and contact the IRS directly by calling 1-800-829-1040.
If you discover that you don’t owe taxes, call 1-800-366-4484 to report this IRS impersonation scam. Or fill out a form on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration web page.
Email Phishing Scams
Phishing occurs when a fraudster sends an email impersonating the IRS. According to the email, it is from the IRS and contains information about a refund or tax return.
To get more information about the refund or return, the recipient is encouraged to click the link. Although this link appears to be an IRS webpage, it’s actually a malicious file that allows the scammer to download tracking software to the victim’s device.
The software is known as malware. The scammers are provided with login information and passwords for the victims’ accounts.
One variation of this scam claims to provide a copy of the taxpayer’s tax transcript. In reality, it’s a malicious document when they click on it.
How do you know this is a scam?
IRS does not send unsolicited emails to taxpayers. They do not send sensitive information or files via email.
Never click on any attachments in emails claiming to be from the IRS or open any emails claiming to be from the IRS. Instead, forward them to email@example.com.
Tips for Avoiding a Tax Scam
You can do a few things to protect yourself from a tax scam.
File Your Taxes Early
You should file your taxes as early as possible. This helps prevent a criminal from obtaining your information and filing a fraudulent tax return in your name.
Understand How the IRS Initiates Contact
Text messages, emails, or social media pages are not used by the IRS to contact a taxpayer. The IRS may occasionally try to reach a taxpayer by phone.
Utilize Identity Theft Protection
Protecting yourself from identity theft allows you to detect problems before they become costly.
An identity theft protection service alerts you to suspicious activity and possible compromises of your personal information. You receive an alert, so you can take steps to secure your accounts.
Credit monitoring is also part of identity theft protection so that you will receive alerts if someone takes out a fraudulent bill or debt in your name.
Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!