Now is the time for tax fraud and theft. As the IRS continues to neutralize these threats, scammers are developing improved tactics to steal your identity and tax refund. Here is a recap of what the IRS is seeing this year:
- More sophisticated email scams. A recent IRS alert warns taxpayers to be on the lookout for new, sophisticated email phishing scams. Thieves may use these fraudulent emails to try to access your personal data through a hyperlink or trick you into providing financial information. This year, thieves are better able to make emails look like they are coming directly from the IRS.
Your defense: The IRS will not contact you via email asking for personal or financial information so do not provide it! If you receive a suspicious email, don’t click any links or open any attachments. Simply forward the message to email@example.com and delete it.
- More realistic phone scams. Scammers are going to great lengths to impersonate the IRS by providing fake badge numbers and appearing as the IRS on your caller ID. They may threaten you with a lawsuit or with arrest, demanding that you make an immediate payment over the phone.
Your defense: If you get a call from someone claiming to be the IRS, hang up immediately. The IRS does not call and ask for information over the phone. Even if you think it’s actually the IRS, get the caller’s name and badge number. Then hang up and call back directly to the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Do not call back on a phone number provided to you by the caller!
- Evolving identity theft scams. Scam artists are now going around you to get your information. For example, a popular scam is to send a phishing email to your employer’s human resources department with the intention of getting your W-2 information. Once they have enough of your information, they can file a fake tax return and send the refund to their bank account. The problem is, you won’t have any idea it happened until you file your tax return and the IRS rejects it.
Your defense: To combat this threat, file your tax return as soon as possible to shrink the filing window available to crooks.
Criminals make a lot of money on tax scams, so they will keep trying to figure out new ways to get your information. Even while the IRS is working to stop the threats, you are your best defense. Stay alert, be skeptical and protect your information. Should you think your information is stolen, please ask for help. The IRS has staff to help correct your situation and will place you in their identity theft protection program.