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Be Aware of the Three Most Common Tax Scams During Tax Season

The IRS has issued a warning about the three most common tax scams used against individuals. They include:
  • IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
  • Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
  • Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

You may have received an aggressive and sophisticated phone call that claims to be employee of the IRS. Rest assure, it most likely is not the IRS. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets. Additionally, they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Generally, victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

In other cases, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Remember these important tips, the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • 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.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

The IRS has also issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. In many cases, like the examples above, scammers use phone calls. However, when identity theft takes place through an email, it is called phishing. Some of these phishing scams are also sent via text messages. However, the IRS does not initiate any conversation through emails.

Nonetheless, for the 2016 tax season, the IRS saw an approximate 400% surge in phishing and malware incidents.

“Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.”

The IRS knows about these scams that link to bogus websites. They recommend you watch for the following clues:

  • “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.”
  • The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”), though notably, not IRS.gov (with a dot).
  • These emails are not from the IRS.

If you open an email or text message from a phishing scam, the websites that you land on will ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people’s computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.

Remember, the IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email. If you believe that you have received a phishing email, report the email to the IRS by forwarding the email to [email protected].

Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), taxpayers are receiving emails that appear to be from TAP about a tax refund. TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security and PIN numbers or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.

Like the messages above, these emails are phishing scams.

Like the other phishing scams, do not respond or click the links in them and please forward the email to [email protected].

For full information on these scams and more, please check out the IRS’ website.

 

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Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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