As in previous years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has identified a number of tax scams that are impacting thousands of people.
The most common tax scheme is Identity Theft. Taxpayers need to be especially vigilant throughout tax season to ensure that their information is not compromised. Review your free credit reports through the three credit bureaus through annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report through each bureau. This means you can pull your report three times in one year. Additionally, reviewing your account and credit card statements regularly is an easy way to determine if someone has unauthorized access to your account.
You may discover that someone has filed a tax return using your tax identification number when you attempt to file electronically. If that occurs, you will have to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus. You may also have to file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, with the IRS.
The second most common type of IRS scam are phone scams. Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents continue to threaten people with arrest, deportation and costly fines. They may also threaten your family members or claim to have them in custody to force payment. Often phone numbers are spoofed, or made to appear to be a legitimate IRS phone number. The IRS will not require payments to be made by prepaid card or ask for your card information over the phone.
Please remember that the IRS will not call you to demand payment or arrange for restitution without first sending you a bill in the mail. They will not threaten to send law enforcement to your home to arrest you. If you receive a threatening call, hang up and notify the IRS.
Criminals continue to use fake emails and websites to steal your personal information. The IRS will not contact you by email about past due funds or looking for a payment. In general, be wary of strange emails and websites that may be scams trying to steal your personal identifying information and never click on links in emails. Navigate to the website through a search engine rather than using links in emails.
Fake charities can arise any time of the year, especially around major natural disasters. Fake charities will often use similar names to legitimate charities and may set up fake websites. Always check the IRS website to be sure that the charity is listed as an Exempt Organization.
Be sure to use a reputable tax firm or software to file your taxes. Fraudulent Tax Filing websites will increase in occurrence during this time of year. Do not click on links for free electronic filing that are located on web pages or in electronic messages. When searching for a site in a browser, always look for the S for secure sites in the protocol identifier noted as https://
If you receive a call, email or text message, please do not respond with any personal, identifying information. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, contact your financial institutions to ensure that your accounts are secured and protected. You may be required to open new accounts if your information was compromised.
The best way to reduce your risk of becoming a victim is by remaining vigilant. Use security software with anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords, do not carry your tax identification number in your wallet or purse, review your free credit reports and account statements regularly.