Identity theft is a major risk that everybody wishes to avoid. Thieves steal personal and financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your Social Security number or bank information. An identity thief may file a phony tax return to claim a fraudulent refund.
The Internal Revenue Service has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources you can use to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft and need help. It includes how and when you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
Phone scams are another way wrongdoers will try to rip you off. In these scams, thieves pose as the IRS and call would-be victims with one goal in mind: take money. Callers will tell you that you owe taxes and demand immediate payment. They will tell you that you must pay the bogus tax bill with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often abusive and threaten arrest or deportation. They may know the last four digits of your Social Security number. They also rig caller ID to falsely show that the call is from the IRS.
Keep in mind that if a person owes taxes, the IRS will first contact them by mail, not by phone. The IRS doesn’t ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes and you get one of these calls, hang up. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to inquire about the accuracy of the claims. The IRS will work with you to pay what you owe. If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
A third way that people may try to get your cash is through phishing scams. Scammers typically send emails that claim to come from the IRS. They often lure their targets with a false promise of a refund or the threat of an audit. They may also set up a phony website that looks like the real IRS.gov. These phony sites often have the IRS seal and other graphics to make them appear official. Their goal is to get their victim to reveal personal and financial information. They use the information they get to steal identities and commit fraud.
The IRS does NOT contact people by email about their tax account. Nor does the agency use email, social media, texting or fax to initiate contact or ask for personal or financial information. If you get an email like this, do not click on a link or open any attachments. You should instead forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Reporting Phishing’ link at the bottom of the page.
Don’t allow tax scams take the fun out of your summer. Be alert to phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, for more on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim and how to report tax fraud.