Every year, unfortunate taxpayers go to file their returns and are shocked to find that someone else has filed a fraudulent one in their name! Some innocent people also receive fraudulent phone calls from criminals impersonating tax officials. Sadly, tax fraud has only become more widespread and digital communication has opened new ways for it to happen.
Once criminals have your information, they can also continue to commit identity theft well beyond tax season. Here are some details on popular tax season scams, along with how to identify them and seek help in case of identity theft.
Phishing and Malware Schemes
Phishing Defined- the fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by using deceptive emails and websites.
- Most times the intent behind a phishing attempt is to get the user to download malware which is software that is designed to damage a computer or server.
- Never click on email links that seem suspicious or are from an unfamiliar sender.
Identity Theft and Falsely Filed Tax Returns
Once criminals have your personal information, they can use it to commit identity theft or file a false tax return in your name.
- Be wary of any contact by phone or email claiming to be from the IRS, as they do not contact taxpayers directly for this type of information.
- File your tax return as soon as you get your W-2’s and other tax information
This final scam involves a criminal impersonating the IRS or a tax official, such as a tax advocacy panel or tax preparer. They may say you owe money to the IRS or your state tax department or may represent themselves as a trusted tax authority and request information. This contact can occur through websites, emails, or threatening calls or text messages that seem official. Sometimes, these scammers request that their victims pay by strange methods like gift cards or pre-paid credit cards.
The IRS will never:
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.