Whether it is sending spam text messages with links to phishing websites or automatic useto get you to reveal personal information, .
Tax fraud and fraud are issues that the IRS takes seriously and that it warns to the best of its ability. In fact, there is a whole section of the IRS website that issues warnings of popular scams and provides strategies to stay away from the fraudsters’ crosshairs.
Here is a selection list of the most popular fraud attempts – and how you can keep both your identity and your tax return safe.
1. The IRS impersonation phone call
How it works: One of the brazenest systems in use every year is fraudsters who call and claim to represent the IRS to taxpayers and request an immediate tax payment. If you call from a phone number that appears to belong to the IRS on your caller ID, you will be threatened, harassed and intimidated to make a rash decision. Usually, they will often ask for a gift card or bank transfer. Thieves are increasingly expanding this program to include email and social media channels.
How to protect yourself: Know that the IRS will never call or show up at your home to request immediate payment – especially by gift card or bank transfer. Although debt collectors are known to be intrusive, an IRS representative should never abuse, abuse or threaten to involve laws or immigration authorities.
When someone who claims to work for the IRS calls you, the IRS says you should write down the number from which you received the call, the name of the caller, and then hang up. You can then call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue to view your account.
Report a scam phone call to the Tax Administration Financial Inspector at 1-800-366-4484 or at tigta.gov. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint.
2. The surprise refund bait and switch
How it works: In the words of the IRS, this is a “new variant of an old fraud”. After criminals secure your sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers and tax forms, they can easily file a fraudulent statement on your behalf.
Once the money has been deposited into your bank account, the fraudsters who claim to be someone from the IRS or a collection agency will contact you to request that the money not received be returned – either by depositing it into an account or by sending it to an address.
How to protect yourself: Be wary of an unexpected tax bill, refund, or news from the IRS or your tax advisor about multiple tax returns that have been submitted using your social security number. If you get an incorrect refund, don’t go out and make a bigger purchase – the IRS will want their money back.
If you suspect you are a victim, file a complaint with the FTC. Call on the major credit bureaus to include a “fraud notification” in your file and contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
3. Cancel or block your social security number
How it works: Criminals are on the phone and threaten to suspend or cancel your social security number until your overdue taxes are paid. The scam appears to be legitimate since the caller has some of your personal information, including the last four digits of your SSN. But as the IRS puts it: “Make no mistake … it’s a scam.”
How to protect yourself: If someone calls and threatens to cancel or suspend your social security number, hang up immediately. If they call you back, don’t answer. Write down the number and report the call on this website. Send an email with the subject “IRS Phone Scam” to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the phone number and all other relevant details in the text of the email.
If you owe taxes, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to discuss your payment options. Your social security number will not be canceled or blocked.
4. Fake texts, emails or social media messages
How it works: Thieves have had years to refine their email tricks and have recently expanded to include text messaging and social media messages. Phishing scams have become much more sophisticated. Incredibly authentic-looking messages are sent from credible-looking addresses that trick victims into sharing confidential information or installing malware.
A particularly brave move is that fraudsters use the IRS name and logo to warn taxpayers of the fraud they are committing before requesting sensitive personal information. Note that attackers are increasingly addressing tax professionals as well as taxpayers.
How to protect yourself: Be wary of communications that you receive via email, text message, or social media that are said to be IRS, accountants, or other financial organizations. Again, the real IRS will never contact you to request personal or financial information.
If you receive such a message, the IRS will ask you to forward it to email@example.com. Do not reply to the original message.
Fraudsters keep trying new things
The IRS has its own tax fraud website where the agency publishes warnings and updates on the current number of fraud cases used. Additional frauds for which the IRS has issued warnings include “ghost tax creators” who charge someone to levy their taxes, often based on a high refund amount, and then fail to submit the tax return – leaving the customer with a non-submitted tax return receives and no refund.
There is also a warning for a tax transcript scam aimed at companies with an attachment infected with Emotet malware.
The biggest advantage here is that if the IRS needs something from you, you will receive a letter by post. You will not receive an email, a call or an SMS. Letters can still be faked. It is therefore best to only use official IRS websites and telephone numbers.
It’s not just a good idea to prevent your tax information from being compromised, use wherever possible and .