Protect Yourself from Tax Fraud
As you begin to prepare to file your taxes this season, not only do you need to worry about getting your return in on time, but also the possibility of tax-related identity theft. Unfortunately, fraudsters are getting more and more creative. It is important to understand some of the common ways these individuals try to steal your information and even your tax refund!
Unsuspecting taxpayers may receive some form of communication via email or even a phone call claiming to be the IRS or their bank. Commonly, the emails received through these types of scams look very professional and ask for sensitive personal and financial information. It is critical to know that the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information.
Most often, the IRS initiates most contact through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, sometimes the IRS does call under special circumstances, or may even make a in person visit to a person’s home or business. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, note that the IRS does not:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
- Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
Another way scam artists take advantage is through paperless e-filing of tax returns. Specifically, thieves submit returns with false information and receive a refund. Although the IRS maintains records of wages and income, they typically will issue a refund check before confirming the information submitted on the return. As a result, by the time the IRS has notified the victim, thieves have cashed the check and are long gone.
Here are a few ways to be proactive and safeguard yourself:
- Try to get your return in as early as possible to close the opportunity for would-be fraudsters to steal your refund. The IRS has already started accepting returns.
- Keep your computer secure. A lot of personal information is stolen through virus and malware that you would never know is on your computer. Invest and update security software regularly.
- Be careful of emails received from unknown sources. As noted above, thieves are very sophisticated and can make an email look incredibly professional—just like it came from Bank of America or Wells Fargo. When in doubt, call your financial institution directly.
- Be mindful of scammers posing as the IRS.
Finally, if you would like to report suspicious activity the IRS has several methods including through their website, calling (800) 366-4484 to report phone scams, and emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.
All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about our firm, our services, and the experience of our attorneys. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, and may be subject to change without notice.