Tax season is also known as the prime-time tax scam season. As the deadline for the April 15 tax filing nears, scammers prey upon people’s fears of making a tax return mistake and exploit their desire to get a bigger refund.
Every year, the Internal Revenue Service warns consumers that there are high-level scams targeting taxpayers throughout the country. They range from false claims to improper application of real-but-arcane tax laws, along with constant attempts to get taxpayers to provide personal information that can be used to steal identities. You cannot let your guard down because these criminals are staging a multimedia assault using email, phone, fax, websites, and/or mailed notices posing as the IRS. There are even scammers who threaten victims with penalties, such as loss of business or loss of driver’s license.
Here are 2 of the most prevalent scams that the IRS has identified this year:
Fake IRS Agents & Phone Calls
IRS representatives almost never call — unless you call them. Real IRS agents initiate contact by mail and never demand payment by debit card, credit card, or wire transfer. Scammers usually use fake names and IRS badge numbers. These scammers “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling. Some scammers inform their victims that they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the scammer becomes hostile and insulting. When they’re done with their threats, they hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV and often the caller ID supports their claim.
Identity Theft & Phishing
Phishing scams usually begin with an unsolicited email with a link to a fake website that looks very authentic. The scammer tries to get the victim to send or enter valuable personal and financial information online permitting identity theft. Sometimes the victim is asked to “verify” information through a website. It is important to know that the IRS never asks for your personal information via email, text message, or social media. The IRS never sends unsolicited emails to taxpayers. The official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org, or any other designations other than .gov. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be an IRS agent – do not reply to the message, open any attachments, or click on any links. If you think your personal information has been stolen to process a fraudulent refund, contact the IRS immediately.
This tax season, it is critical to stay alert so you do not become a victim of tax scams. It’s easy to verify whether a call or letter is indeed from the IRS. If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is an issue. It is important to keep yourself safe. Identity theft protection is a service that will help prevent many fraudulent issues that may arise.
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