IRS and Tax Scams
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to identify a number of scams targeting taxpayers. During the tax filing season, scammers are especially crafty in the ways they will attempt to steal your money, your tax return, and other personal information.
The most common type of IRS scams are conducted through phone and email from fraudsters impersonating federal agents (such as the IRS, but also including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Social Security Administration, or other government entities.) They seek to threaten you with arrest, jail time, deportation and/or costly fines. Some may even threaten that your information or DNA has been connected to a crime. They may also threaten your family members or claim to have them in custody to force payment from you. These phone calls are not legitimate and the IRS will not call to demand payment or threaten to send law enforcement to your home to arrest you. Additionally, the phone numbers are often spoofed, or made to appear to be a legitimate IRS phone number.
To combat these types of scams, be aware of the following Red Flags in regards to the IRS, but note that fraudsters may pretend to be from other government entities.
FILE TAXES WITH CAUTION
When filing taxes, be sure to use a reputable tax firm or software, as there is an increase in fraudulent tax filing websites. Beware to not click on links for free electronic filings that are located on web pages or within emails.
Taxpayers need to be especially vigilant throughout tax season to ensure that your information is not compromised. Review your credit reports on www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report through each bureau and you can pull your report three times in one year. Reviewing your deposit account(s) and credit card statements regularly is an easy way to determine if someone has unauthorized access to your account. Fraudsters will also use threatening tactics to commit Identity Theft and periodically reviewing your credit report and account statements can help stop their efforts before any damage can be done to your credit status.
If you discover that someone has filed a tax return using your tax identification number (TIN) when you attempt to file your taxes, there are immediate steps you should take:
In general, be wary of strange emails and websites that may be trying to trick you into revealing your personal information online. A good tip to verify if a website is secure is to always look for the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ on the URL of the website you are visiting, which should read ‘https://www.irs.gov’. The ‘s’ indicates the website is secure.
Additionally, never click on links within emails from persons or companies you are unfamiliar with, as they may contain malware that will infect your computer or mobile device. If you are unsure if a link to a website is safe, navigate to the website through a search engine rather than clicking on a link, as this will help avoid any computer viruses.
The best way to reduce your risk of becoming a victim is to be prepared. Use security software with anti-virus protection, use strong passwords, do not carry your tax identification number in your wallet or purse, and review your free credit reports and account statements regularly for anything that is amiss.
Additional information with the most recent updates of IRS scams can be found on the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts
Similarly, the FTC has resources that include infographics, videos, and example phone recordings all with respect to the most recent scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts