Tax Guard’s IRS Tax Tip–Avoid Summertime Tax Scams Published July 16, 2014
It’s summertime. Warm days, rest and recreation and…tax scams. Thieves don’t stop victimizing unsuspecting taxpayers with their scams after April 15. Identity theft, phone and phishing scams happen year-round.
Here’s a list of the three scams that top the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list this year with some important information regarding what you should know should any of these scams could occur to you, someone you know or one of your clients:
1. Identity Theft. Identity thieves steal personal and financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include a Social Security number or bank information. An identity thief may file a phony tax return to claim a fraudulent refund.
The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources available to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you or someone you know are a victim of identity theft and need help. This includes how and when the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit should be contacted.
2. Phone Scams. In these scams, thieves pose as the IRS and call would-be victims with one goal in mind: to steal their money. Callers will tell you that you owe taxes and demand immediate payment. They will tell you that you must pay the bogus tax bill with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often abusive and threaten arrest or deportation. They may know the last four digits of your Social Security number. They also rig caller ID to falsely show that the call is from the IRS–this one is particularly deceiving and effective.
Keep in mind that if a person owes taxes, the IRS will first contact them by mail, not by phone. The IRS does NOT ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If a taxpayer owes, or thinks they might owe federal taxes and gets one of these calls, it’s best to just hang up and contact a tax professional or the IRS directly. If taxes are not owed, the incident should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
3. Phishing Scams. Criminals use the IRS as bait in a phishing scam. Scammers typically send emails that purport to come from the IRS. They often lure their targets with a false promise of a refund or the threat of an audit. They may also set up a phony website that looks like the real IRS.gov. These phony sites often have the IRS seal and other graphics to make them appear official. Their goal is to get their victim to reveal personal and financial information. They use the information they get to steal identities and commit fraud.
The IRS does NOT contact people by email about their tax account. Nor does the agency use email, social media, texting or fax to initiate contact or ask for personal or financial information. If you get an email like this, do not click on a link or open any attachments. You should instead forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t let tax scams take the fun out of your summer. Be alert to phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure.
Please contact us if we can assist you or anyone you know in deciphering the difference between what could be authentic or fraudulent contact from the IRS.