Got hit up by some fishy tax-related scams? It must be tax season.
The closer it gets to the filing deadline, the more active scammers get, from high-tech identity thieves to tried-and-true con artists. According to the IRS, these are among the 6 most common tax scams:
- Phishing: Con artists use unsolicited email and fake websites to trick people into giving up personal information that will then be used to commit identity theft and fraud. Stay on guard against unexpected emails from the IRS regarding refunds or collections, say IRS officials. They’re fake — the IRS never contacts taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Report such suspicious messaging to email@example.com.
- Verification requests: Another scam tactic is to have you “verify” your W-2 or personal information, such as asking you to upload a picture of your forms. The IRS will only request ID verification if they were concerned about a suspicious tax return with a real taxpayer’s name and/or Social Security number. In these cases, they would usually send a Letter 507IC (check the upper corner for the number) in the mail and ask you to verify your identity via Identity Verification Service.
- Phone scams: Scammers often impersonate IRS agents and make aggressive or threatening calls demanding money or offering a refund. Clever scammers may also alter their caller ID information to appear like they’re calling from an IRS office. However, according to officials that’s not how the IRS does business. The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually via mail.
- Inflated refund claims: Avoid tax preparers who ask you to sign a blank check, promise big refunds before looking at your records or charge fees based on a percentage of your refund. They typically use fliers and phony storefronts – particularly insidious scammers may infiltrate community groups and churches. Scammers of this nature may file a false return in your name and take your refund. The IRS offers tips for choosing a preparer.
- Fake charities: It’s common for scammers to impersonate charities, especially disasters; some even contact victims while claiming to be with the IRS. These groups often have names similar to legitimate organizations. Never give out personal financial information or Social Security numbers, and don’t give or send cash. The IRS website’s search feature allows you to look up legitimate charities.
- Identity theft: Many identity theft scams involve filing tax returns using stolen Social Security numbers. Protect your personal data, check your credit report annually and review your Social Security Administration earnings statement each year to make sure you haven’t been targeted. Check out the irs.gov section on ID theft for more information.