Tax Scams Can Happen All Year Long
There are about 230-ish million tax forms filed each year, and all of these forms contain a lot of information. This makes it a perfect opportunity for scammers to take advantage of victims. Here are two of the most common Internet scams that are connected with taxes:
One common scam is to impersonate an employee of the IRS. This is usually done by phone and often targets recent immigrants and others who are not familiar with the tax system. A con artist calls unsuspecting taxpayers and informs them that they owe money to the IRS. This money must be paid immediately through a wire transfer or debit card they can pre-load. If the victim does not cooperate, the caller threatens them actions such as deportation and arrest.
Tax Preparer Phishing Scams
This scam comes through an email and is focused on those who are tax professionals. In this scam, the professional is asked that they update their IRS e-services log in information and EFIN numbers. This allows a scammer to access sensitive information.
Avoiding the Scammers
There are ways to differentiate the scammers from the real agents, and to do this, remember that the IRS will never:
- Call you and ask for immediate payment
- Demand that you pay your taxes without the opportunity for appeal
- Require taxpayers to use a specific payment method, such as wire transfer
- Initiate contact with a taxpayer via email to request sensitive information
- Ask for debit or credit card information over the phone
- Threaten to bring in local law enforcement to arrest you for not paying
- Use unsolicited emails, social media contacts or text messages to discuss personal tax issues
The IRS Won't Send Emails
The IRS does not send emails, so if you get one, it is fake. These look very real with references to IRSgov or USA gov; the difference is, there is no dot present in the address.
Should you receive an email like this, do not respond to it. Instead, forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also ways to report phishing scams online at the IRS website.
If you receive an email from the IRS or someone who pretends to be from the IRS, it is an attempt to lure taxpayers into sending out sensitive information. These messages usually attempt to convince the recipients to provide financial or personal information to enable the perpetrators to commit identity theft. Unless you have already engaged with an IRS agent, and they are sending you information via email, these are not real messages.
Tips to Remain Safe
Here are some tips to help keep you safe when it comes to tax scams and schemes:
- Make sure that you keep your tax forms in a safe place, such as in a locked box. Mail is stolen daily, and tax forms often include sensitive information such as birthdates and social security numbers.
- Any statement forms from brokerages, IRAs, 401(k) or other investment accounts can be shredded when the new ones arrive. A home shredder, which costs less than $50, is a great investment for people who invest.
- File your taxes online through a reputable source or mail the forms directly at the post office. Do not take the chance and mail them from home. File early if you can, too, as someone may try to file taxes in your name. Though this sounds crazy, if they file taxes as you, they have easy access to your refund.
- Take steps to protect your computer. Even if you don't file your taxes online, a secure computer is essential. You should have the latest antivirus software available, a two-way firewall and run spyware removal software on a regular basis. Also, make sure that you have a network key on any wireless Internet connection.