Tax season is just around the corner and with it comes a range of scams you need to be on the lookout for. Every single year identity thieves steal millions of dollars by gaining access to your personal information found in the various tax forms that we all fill out and submit to state and federal agencies.
Whether you file your own taxes or hire an accountant or service to do it for you, this risk is very real, and you need to stay informed of all the potential scams surrounding the tax paying process. These threats exist all year long, but tax-specific scams increase in number from the time you read this post until April 15th, the deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to keep identity thieves at bay and your personal information out of their prying hands.
First thing First
The IRS will never initiate an inquiry with a taxpayer through the channels that identity thieves constantly use to steal your personal information. This means that if you receive a text message, email, or direct message through any form of social media that claims to be from the IRS, it is fake. An aggressive phone call demanding immediate payment of an outstanding tax bill is also a sure sign of fraud.
Almost everyone has some level of anxiety when it comes to taxes, so identity thieves and other cybercriminals use this to their advantage. Many of you have already received a threatening robocall or text message out of the blue that preys on this fear of being on the wrong side of the law relating to taxes. This scam has been around for years and it is often still successful so it continues to pop up every tax season.
Watch Out for Known IRS Tax Scams
Although threat actors are always looking to develop new tricks and tactics to secure the information that they need to commit identity fraud, many of the scams they use during tax season have been attempted in previous years. This presents a double-edged situation. It indicates that these scams are effective and have been successfully used by identity thieves, but it also allows for knowledge of what to look out for to prevent you from becoming a victim.
Some of the most common IRS tax scams include:
IRS Agent Impersonator Phone Calls – This is one of the most common tax season scams, and it is a direct attempt by criminals to scare you into making a phony payment or revealing your personal information. The caller will claim to be an IRS agent and might even give you a bogus badge number to establish authority and convince you the situation is real. This call can turn heated quickly with the imposter making threatening comments or becoming aggressive and demanding. You could be asked to make an immediate payment via wire transfer or gift card. Do not fall for this scam even when threatened.
The IRS will not call you as a first attempt to notify you of any outstanding bills or tax payments due. Never give out your personal information or pay a bogus bill if you receive one of these calls. The IRS almost always mails a bill to a taxpayer who owes additional money or has an outstanding payment due. Take a look here for some additional information on the ways in which the IRS may actually try to contact you, if needed.
Fake IRS Emails Regarding Your Return – This is another potential threat that comes in the form of a phishing scheme with cybercriminals once again attempting to pose as the IRS. You may receive an official looking email claiming to be from the IRS. The email will ask you to setup an account to learn about the status of your tax return or refund. This is always a scam. The IRS will never send you an unsolicited email and does not reach out to you for an updated status on refunds.
Other phishing scams pretending to be from the IRS are possible as well. Another common one involves sending you an email with an attachment or link to “Tax Transcripts” or a similar document. Again, the IRS will not send you an email, especially one with direct access to your sensitive personal tax information. This link or attachment can be infected with malware that can be used to steal your personal information. Never click on links or attachments in these types of emails.
SSN Scam – You might also encounter a Social Security number scam at some point during tax season. This is another phone call related attempt to scare you into revealing sensitive information. The scammer on the line will tell you that your SSN number will be suspended or cancelled if an outstanding tax payment isn’t paid immediately. These are often robocalls, which is an obvious red flag indicating a scam. Never reveal your actual SSN if you receive this type of call.
What You Can Do to Avoid IRS Tax Scams
Knowing that these tax scams are prevalent is a good first step toward limiting your risk of becoming a victim. And while these commonly known examples listed above appear more often during tax season, know that they can happen at any time of the year and always be suspect of any unsolicited communication claiming to be from the IRS. These attempts are almost always fake with the sole purpose of stealing your identity or getting you to make a phony payment.
If you do happen to fall victim to one of these scams, quick action to restore your identity is essential. You can reduce the impact of identity fraud if you realize the threats that exist and make every attempt to keep your personal information safe and secure. Effective identity restoration services are always recommended and can help to limit what a cybercriminal can do with your personal information if they do gain access to it. Even so, IRS tax scams affect thousands of victims every year so stay vigilant and aware this tax season.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.