Now that we’ve reached the end of the 2015 calendar, the stark opposite of the most wonderful time of the year is upon us: tax season. Tax season officially started yesterday, and for the rest of January, and into February and March, we’ll be collecting pay stubs, tax returns, receipts, etc. in a frenzy to prepare for April 15. Accountants across the nation are working later and later into the evenings as Doomsday approacheth. Other than wanting you to get it together and figure out what you’re writing off, the IRS wants you to know about the common tax scams that are extremely prevalent in the months leading up to April 15. While these scams always seem like something that “could never happen to me,” the reality is that they’ve become all-too-common, and the more we can talk openly about them and spread awareness, the less chance we have of falling victim to one.
That said, here are four of the most common tax scams to be aware of this tax season:
1. IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
This is what the IRS refers to as an “aggressive and sophiscated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants.” It has already been happening regularly this year. Callers will tell you they are IRS employees and will give you fake names and badge numbers. The people being called (the victims) are told that they owe money and must pay immediately through a “pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.” This is how you know it is not an acceptable call: the IRS will never call you demanding money. That isn’t how their system works. Lastly, victims may instead be told that their refund is ready (sometimes before their taxes have been filed) because the scammers are trying to trick them into sharing private information.
2. Email Phishing Scam
The subject line of the email typically reads: “Update your IRS e-file.” The IRS reminds you that they would not contact you via email to request personal/financial information, which is how you know immediately that this is a fraud. The email will appear as if it’s from the IRS and often mentions USA.gov or IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”). The email will include a link to a fake site that is made to look like a carbon copy of the official IRS website.
3. Identity Theft Scams
The IRS is issuing warnings specifically about scammers using the IRS’ name (fraudulently) in order to steal citizens financial information, identity, and assets. Scammers target you via regular mail, phone, fax, or email. In this situation, the email would be the biggest tip off because the IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via email. Similarly, the lessons the IRS gives with regards to phone scams apply here too. If you are contacted in any other way and are not sure about the legitimacy of the mailing/fax, do not hesitate to ask someone you trust or a professional. To learn more about identity theft click here. (Also, learn how to protect your information here.)
4. Tax Preparer Phishing Scam
This is exactly what it sounds like. This scam is typically directed at tax professionals; it’s a phishing scheme designed to find out your username and password. You will receive a fake email asking you to update your IRS e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers. For more information on this scam click here.
According to the IRS website, here are some things the IRS would never do (that may indicate a scam):
“1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe;
3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.”
According to Redditor aBoglehead, here’s what you should do if you are contacted by a clear scam:
“If you get called by a scammer, consider collecting their stated name, phone number they are calling from, and number you are directed to call, and reporting it to TIGTA and/or the Federal Trade Commission (with “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes). DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION.”
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