Tax season is here, and it’s essential to watch out for common tax scams. The IRS reports that in the last nine years tax scams have cost victims more than $23 million.
Here are two scams to be aware of and a few tips for how you can help avoid them.
A phone scam is a common tax scam where someone calls and claims to be from the IRS.
Fraudsters use a fake name and provide bogus IRS identification numbers. They use sophisticated technology to display their phone number on caller ID as if the phone call is from the IRS.
Victims are told that they owe money to the IRS. Then, they’re told that they need to pay the balance they owe via a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card.
This is a common technique that scammers use. Once the payment is sent, it isn’t easy to recover money that’s been converted into a gift card or prepaid debit card. The same applies to a wire transfer; it’s gone once the money is sent.
These scammers tell their victims that they are going to be arrested, deported or have their business or driver’s license revoked if they don’t quickly pay what they owe.
Sometimes, the scammer may tell the victim that they’re due a tax refund to try to get them to reveal private personal and financial information.
How do you know this is a scam?
The IRS informs you of any money you owe via a letter or notice.
They never demand immediate payment over the phone. They don’t request that you pay your balance in gift cards or a wire transfer. An IRS agent won’t make threats or harass you.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS stating that you owe money, hang up and initiate contact with the IRS yourself by calling 1-800-829-1040.
Should 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
Email phishing scams occur when a fraudster sends an email impersonating the IRS. The email appears to be from the IRS and claims information about the taxpayer’s refund or tax return.
The recipient is encouraged to click a link to get more information about their refund or return. This link resembles an IRS webpage, but it’s a malicious file that helps the scammer download tracking software to the victim’s device.
This software is known as malware. It provides the scammers with login info and passwords to the victim’s accounts.
A variation of this scam claims to provide the taxpayer with a copy of their tax transcript. However, when they click the document, it’s a malicious file.
How do you know this is a scam?
The IRS doesn’t send unsolicited emails to taxpayers. They do not send sensitive information or files via email.
Don’t open any emails that claim to be from the IRS and never click on any attachments. Instead, forward them to [email protected].
Tips for Avoiding a Tax Scam
You can do a few things to protect yourself from a tax scam.
File Your Taxes Early
Try to file your taxes are early as possible. This helps prevent a criminal from obtaining your information and attempting to file a fraudulent return in your name.
Understand How the IRS Initiates Contact
The IRS doesn’t start contact with a taxpayer by text message, email or a social media page. Occasionally, they can try to contact a taxpayer via the phone.
Utilize Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft protection makes it easier to spot an issue before it turns into an expensive problem.
An identity theft protection service lets you know when there is suspicious activity and your personal information may have been compromised. You receive an alert, so you can take steps to secure your accounts.
Identity theft protection also includes credit monitoring to help you receive alerts if someone has taken out fraudulent debt or bills in your name.