Watch Out for Tax Scams
Don’t you just love tax season? Ok, so we kind of do, we are an accounting firm after all, but we know it’s not exactly the time of year you look forward to. It’s not just worrying about filing your tax return on time that you need to be on top of, however. Tax season is also when scammers come out of the woodwork.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) typically issues advisory warnings when they’ve identified a tax scam and they recently did so to warn people about emails or telephone calls from people claiming they are from the IRS. The whole point of such scams is to get you to send money or try to get you to give personal details so they can steal your identity.
An attorney working for the Federal Trade Commission got the following voicemail:
“Hello, we have trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.”
Fortunately, the attorney knew that this call couldn’t be from the actual IRS. But, the call did scare her kids into thinking their mom would go to jail. This is what these con men and women go for. They aim to frighten you into divulging personal information or sending money so that they can make it all go away.
The IRS said aggressive and threatening phone calls by people impersonating IRS agents is still the top form of tax scam being used. People are told that they would be subject to legal action, deported, or arrested if they don’t send money right away.
Identity theft is also an issue during tax season. In these types of cons, scammers try to get your Social Security number so that they can file a fraudulent tax return and get the refund. Email phishing is also a common way scammers try to get your personal information. These emails will look official and are very convincing but it is important not to fall into this trap. Forward any suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you ever receive any call or email asking for personal information, especially from a government agency that could probably get the information themselves anyway, do NOT answer/reply. If you’re worried, contact your local IRS office and verify the call/email.
WARNING: Caller ID can be spoofed to look legitimate. If you get a call from anyone you don’t know, tell them you’ll find a number for the business/agency yourself and call back. Never use a number they give you.
Tips from the IRS
To avoid becoming a victim of a tax or identity theft scam, the IRS recommends you to keep these things in mind:
- The IRS does not initiate contact by email or phone for financial or personal information. There’s always a paper trail. The IRS will write to you first. If you receive a tax bill that you want to verify, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. (Prepare to be on hold)
- You will not get a “pay up immediately” ultimatum from the IRS. They will send you a bill.
- The IRS does NOT call to congratulate you on your tax refund.
- The IRS will not tell you how to pay your bill, for example, requiring that you send a prepaid debit card to a certain address.
- The IRS, which can be aggressive in its collection methods, still follows a certain protocol. They are not going to threaten to send the police.